Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Updated 11:36 PM
By Brett Ballantini
CLEVELAND Even when Manny Ramirez isnt in the game, his aura has an effect on the biorhythm of every contest he creeps near.
What else accounts for the perplexing twist this series between Mannys new club, the Chicago White Sox, and his first franchise, the Cleveland Indians, took on Tuesday night? Namely, that a mere day after the two clubs combined for 16 runs on 35 hits, leaving 28 runners on base over 11 innings, the coupling erupted for just five hits over the first six innings.
And moreover, please do explain how his mere presence in the on-deck circle can inspire a first home run in months, a gamewinner at that?
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski played the hero (and the spoiler, as Ramirez was on deck waiting to make his White Sox debut) in the top of the ninth, clocking a three-run homer deep to right to give the White Sox a 4-3 victory.
Its been so long since I hit a home run, I kind of forgot what to do, Pierzynski joked. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper was telling me when I was on deck that we need a run, and fast, because we were running out of reliever options.
Im not going to say A.J. hit a home run because of Manny, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. Its unpredictable, but when you see Mannys presence, hitting in front of Manny gives you a look at better pitches. You have to be careful with the guy in front of Manny. Youve got to throw strikes because you dont want to face him.
Pierzynski actually had a perfect explanation for his sudden burst of game-winning power, his first home run since July 9.
I told Manny that I finally got some protection, said the backstop.
While acknowledging Pierzynskis heroics and the looming threat that is "Manny Being Manny," the games biggest hero was the exquisite Edwin Jackson. The Chisox starter threw 8 23 innings, giving up three runs and six hits while walking just one batter and striking out 11.
As a starter you want to go as far as you can, no matter if the bullpen is fresh or if its beat up, said Jackson, who threw 129 pitches. You want to be on the field as long as you can, or until you cant go any longer. Thats just the mindset Ive taken out there.
Edwin Jackson is the story of the night, Pierzynski said. We really wanted him to finish that game. We needed that effort, with our bullpen kind of used and abused with the extra-inning game here, and the games last weekend with the New York Yankees. For him to go out and pitch the way he did, he was amazing.
Bobby Jenks came on for his 25th save, shaking off a rough Monday outing by coaxing Cleveland center fielder Michael Brantley into a tapout to the mound with the winning run on first base.
Thats when you have your heart in your throatyou dont know what to do, Guillen said. Jackson was throwing too many pitches. We called the bullpen and Bobby said hes ready to go, and Lino Scott Linebrink and Sergio Santos were ready to go as well. I went with my best betmy closerbut as a manager when you hear your players volunteer when theyre very beat up, you know what type of players you have playing for you.
I was happy for Bobby to come in and get that last out because hes had some troubles here the last few times, Pierzynski said. So that was huge.
The game certainly didnt seem to be angling toward the dramatic, nor the celebratory, for Chicago. In fact, over the first six innings, left fielder Juan Pierre had the clubs only two hits, extending his stretch of hitting safely to 34 of his last 36 games.
It took until the bottom of the seventh for the scoreless deadlock to expire, as Shelley Duncan clocked a 1-1 slider from Jackson deep to left, putting the Wahoos up 1-0. The White Sox came right back in the top of the eighth to tie, as Mark Kotsay walked, Brent Lillibridge pitch-ran for him and was sacrificed to second by Alexei Ramirez, and Mark Teahen came through with a single to center, tying the score.
Meanwhile, Jackson kept mowing through the Indians. Although his club could only muster a tie in the eighth, the wily righty chased that game-tying effort with a 12-pitch bottom of the eighth in which he struck out the side, topping out at 99 mph on a fastball to third victim Shin-Soo Choo.
Its just a matter of attacking the strike zone and executing pitches, said Jackson, whose ERA jumped to 1.47 in winning his third game in five White Sox starts, his KBB increasing to an astronomical 5.63.
With momentum behind them, the White Sox mounted a rally in the ninth with a leadoff walk and stolen base for Alex Rios. After a poor at-bat from Paul Konerko ended in a K and Carlos Quentin walked, Pierzynski stepped to the plate and Ramirez hit the on-deck circle to pinch-hit. But the newest White Sox sat his fanny right back down after Pierzynskis three-run shot, leaving his Chicago debut for another day.
Everything worked out well for us, Guillen said. Manny was on the on-deck circle, and all of a sudden we hit a home run. Its good, we didnt have to use him today, and hell be in the lineup tomorrow. Manny is excited to play, maybe because he hasnt played for two months. It seems like hes very comfortable here and hopefully we make his stay with the White Sox very comfortable. The players seemed to welcome him very well. Our dugout was the same. Nothing changed.
On Wednesday, the Manny Era in Chicago begins, as the White Sox attempt to sweep the Wahoos and pull closer to first place - as they remain four games back of the Minnesota Twins. If a standing ovation in the on-deck circle and mind-melding a pitcher into tossing a three-run, game-losing homer to the batter in front of him is any indication of his powers, that Manny Era is going to be one heck of a trip.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.