With Manny on deck, Pierzynski clubs Sox to victory

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With Manny on deck, Pierzynski clubs Sox to victory

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Updated 11:36 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

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.

Improved defense high on list of White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada this spring

Improved defense high on list of White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada this spring

MESA, Ariz. — Yoan Moncada applied some of his early work in camp to the field on Monday afternoon when he started a double play with a spectacular diving stop.

In his first start of the spring, the White Sox second baseman's dazzling play helped pitcher Lucas Giolito out of a first-inning jam. Moncada struck out in his only plate appearances as the White Sox and Cubs finished in a 4-4 tie in nine innings at Sloan Park.

"Definitely that play was unbelievable," Giolito said. "It really helped me get out of that inning. They had the momentum going, guys on base, nobody out. (Moncada) makes a play like that and they turn the double play, it's fantastic. It's really good defense to have behind you."

The top player acquired in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada has been described by some as not having a set position. There's a thought he might be better suited for third base or perhaps even center field. But Moncada prefers second base and that's where the White Sox intend to give him a chance.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria said earlier this spring that Moncada has all the requisite tools needed to play second base, he just needs to fine tune. Renteria said the biggest area of refinement is footwork and getting Moncada to take less circular routes to the ball.

Moncada feels good about the work he's put in so far.

"It's nothing really hard, but you have to make adjustments," Moncada said through an interpreter. "I'm trying to have my legs a little more open. That's work we're doing right now on my defense.

"My focus is just to try to get better in every aspect of the game, my offense, my defense, my baserunning too. It's the mentality we have here right now, and I'm just trying to take advantage of it."

Moncada has appeared in all three White Sox games this spring. He's 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a walk. 

Prospect Lucas Giolito debuts for White Sox in tie against Cubs

Prospect Lucas Giolito debuts for White Sox in tie against Cubs

MESA, Ariz. — One of the main points of emphasis for Lucas Giolito this spring is to consistently throw his curveball for strikes so hitters respect it.

The White Sox prospect was partly pleased with how he commanded his offspeed pitch on Monday as he debuted in a 4-4 tie between the White Sox and Cubs at Sloan Park. Giolito allowed a run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings pitched. He also surrendered a long home run to Addison Russell.

"I'd say in the first inning, I did an OK job of commanding a curveball for a strike," Giolito said. "I feel like when I throw it for a strike and can show I can throw it for a strike, that's when I can get more swings on it. The second inning, I kind of got away from it. I was kind of yanking them, throwing a lot in the dirt low and away, and a big-league hitter is just going to spit on that. I'm just going to continue to work on that, throwing a curveball for a strike, commanding a fastball especially down and away to righties."

The team's top pitching prospect was pleased with how he commanded his fastball in to righties and away to left-handed hitters. He also was happy with his changeup.

Beyond that, Giolito displayed some fight when he worked his way into trouble. Courtesy of a nice diving stop by Yoan Moncada, Giolito induced a double play off Anthony Rizzo's bat after Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant singled to start the bottom of the first inning. Following Russell's no-doubt homer in the second inning, Giolito struck out Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras and worked around a two-out walk.

"I didn't really translate the stuff I was doing in the 'pen, the stuff I've been working on very well in the game," Giolito said. "I got into the game, and it's a pretty packed stadium, adrenaline going, I got a little quick, got a little ahead of myself and missed, especially with the four-seam fastball. I missed quite a few. Obviously the homer, the line drive, you could see where the misses were."

"I did a better job today throwing fastballs away to lefties and inside to righties than the opposite. So we continue to work on that in the pen, but I'll have plenty more opportunities, a lot of stuff to work on in the spring."

[RELATED: Facing Cubs for first time, Rick Renteria happy with White Sox]

Jose Abreu homered and singled and drove in two runs in three at-bats and Tim Anderson doubled in a run and singled in three trips. Afterward, Abreu left the team for personal reasons to return to Miami. He's expected to be back in camp on Wednesday.

Juan Minaya struck out four batters in two scoreless innings in relief to keep the score tied.

Third baseman Todd Frazier took 35 swings and 35 ground balls prior to Monday's game. Frazier, who has a mild oblique strain, said he's made good progress since he hurt himself last Monday.

"Feeling good," Frazier said. "See how we feel tomorrow, you never know. Some people don't believe mild strain, but it really was. Work in slow, but when I get in game, get in game.

"Could be a couple of days, could be five or six or after off day. Don't need much time. At the back end of March we'll be getting after it."