Mmm...Bop: White Sox crush Hanson, Braves

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Mmm...Bop: White Sox crush Hanson, Braves

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Updated: 12:25 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO The Chicago White Soxs domination of the National League is starting to reach downright silly proportions.

White Sox starter John Danks spotted the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves three runs in the first two innings, initiated by a leadoff home run by Bravos second baseman Martin Prado on the southpaws third pitch of the game and chased by two more runs in the second, before the South Siders rallied for nine runs and held on for a 9-6 win. The White Sox have now won 11 of their last 12 games.

Only one ball was hit pretty good, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Atlantas early flurry. Let people in Chicago know, the ballpark is beginning to shrink.

Ill be honest with you, it sucks, Danks said of allowing a leadoff home run. Youre warming up for 20 minutes, and then in a few seconds youre in a hole. All you can do is bow your neck and keep battling.

Battle the White Sox did, pounding out 16 hits to tie a season high, only two of them for extra bases, and struck out only three times.

Earlier in the season were just hoping to come back down 3-0, Guillen said. But we were doing a good job of making Braves starter Tommy Hanson throw a pitch. Even the outs were on good contact.

Indeed, Prados shot was followed by an even more troubling second frame, when successive soft singles with two outs set up No. 9 hitter Brooks Conrad for a two-RBI double, pushing Atlantas advantage to 3-0.

In the bottom half of the second with sacks occupied by Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin, DH Mark Kotsay nearly tied the game with one swing, sending an 0-2 pitch from Braves starter Tommy Hanson soaring down the right-field line, with home-run distance but ultimately the right size, wrong shape by 10 feet. The erstwhile DH had to settle for a swinging sacrifice, forcing Chicagos two sluggish runners to second and third. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski cashed in those chips with a solid strike to right, plating two, and after Alexei Ramirez singled and Juan Pierre took one for the team to fill the bases, the ageless Omar Vizquel knocked in two more with a two-out, sharp strike to right. With runners at the corners, a 3-2 count turned an inning-ending force at second into an infield hit and RBI for Alex Rios, as Vizquels motion on the pitch turned an inning-ender into Chicagos fifth run of the game, a crooked number that iced the game for the White Sox just 12 outs in.

After a 36-pitch second for Hanson, it was clear: On a night where Danks started out fooling few, the Atlanta hurler was fooling fewer.

It was just a matter of time, said Pierzynski of the White Soxs offensive breakout and winning streak. Were feeling better and better out there. Weve been working hard. Pierzynski had some soft drops among his three hits, but the veteran backstop pays no nevermind to how the safeties fall: They all count the same. Ive had some screamers that have been outs. We just want to keep moving through the order and plating runs.

The proceedings started getting goofy in the third, when in spite of all self-subterfuge, the White Sox still squeezed across a run. Kotsay walked and ran himself into the second out of the inning by attempting to advance to third on Pierzynskis flip single to left. Ramirez stepped up and belted the catcher home with a sharp base knock, upping the ante for Atlanta to three runs, 6-3.

In the fourth, Braves third baseman Conrad proved such a vacuum at the hot corner that he absorbed a Rios grounder into his body, by uniform osmosis. While the Chicago center fielder scooted to first for an infield hit, the third sacker pirouetted at third, searching for a ball that hed sucked into the third chakra of his spine.

Thats the way Rios is going right now, Guillen said. If that was Gordon Beckham, whos enduring a tough-luck stretch, it would have been a double play.

With two outs, Quentin made Conrad and a punch-drunk Hanson pay with a crushing home run 20 rows into the left-field stands. Having hemorrhaged 11 hits and nine runs, all earned, on just 78 pitches and 11 outs, Cox trotted to the mound to tap Hanson on the hiney and say, son, tonight youre taking one for the team. After five more pitchesyielding a screaming double from Kotsay and a sharp single for PierzynskiCox trod back to the mound for the mercy killing.

The so-called relief pitcher charged with mopping up Hansons mess was Jesse Chavez, he of 19 earned runs in 18 games, for a crisp 7.33 ERA. Chicago chose not to waste many more hits after tying its season-high of 16, and Chavez took advantage of the chance to drain his ERA southward.

Danks finished his evening on a full bounce-back strong from a shaky start, logging seven innings of six-hit ball, three Ks, and some uncommonly strong offensive support to push him to his seventh win on the season.

After that start, my job was to keep them at three, Danks said. You dont want to be the starter whos the weak link. And falling behind, it was an uh-oh. A starting staff like we have, you dont want to be the guy to break a streak.

Atlanta added an eighth-inning run off of reliever Tony Pena, when Prado tripled and scored on a Jason Heyward groundout. Brian McCann greeted reliever Scott Linebrinks second pitch of the game with a ninth-inning bomb to draw the Braves to 9-5, and closer Bobby Jenks had to be called in to put out Linebrinks fire after Atlanta drew within threeBad Bobby tossed one pitch to earn his 15th save. In the ninth, Ramirez had to leave the game with a finger injury, but was hopping with determined energy postgame, declaring himself with effusive Spanish ready to play on Wednesday.

Sure, this was the first time that Atlanta has fallen when scoring five or more runs, dropping them to 31-1 on the season in such circumstances. Yet the overlooked White Sox just keep sneaking up on teams, it seems. The skipper, he doesnt mind one bit.

Were lucky, Guillen said. Thats what people want to hear. People dont believe we can play very wellbut people forget, our players have credentials.

The White Sox will take their burgeoning pedigree into tomorrow nights contest, running yet another hot starter out and backing him with a reinvigorated, smallball offense. The Pale Hose appear destined to make believers of so many who abandoned the bandwagon with the gametime air still crisp.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Former White Sox slugger Jim Thome taking his talents to MLB Network

Former White Sox slugger Jim Thome taking his talents to MLB Network

White Sox fans who miss Jim Thome will get to see the ex-slugger’s mug a whole lot more soon.

Thome won’t be rejoining the White Sox lineup, but he is adding television analyst to his job description, supplementing his gig in the White Sox front office with regular appearances on MLB Network.

“I’m excited,” Thome told reporters Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “The opportunity came up of maybe doing it, and then the first thing I thought of was my job with the White Sox. But it all worked out.

“I love baseball. I think being around baseball and talking hitting and maybe sharing some of the stuff that I learned over a 22-year-career, maybe to help kids, coaches, just in general maybe share a little input. Learn a lot of stuff from a lot of great people: Hall of Famers that are on the show, players that I played with, players that I competed with. And to me the biggest thing, when you leave the game, you miss that teammate camaraderie atmosphere that I think this gives you.”

Thome doesn’t know what his schedule will be or which of the network’s many shows he’ll be appearing on. He won’t be a full-time analyst, but he will be sharing his expertise on the art of hitting alongside his fellow players like Sean Casey, Al Leiter, Billy Ripken, Dan Plesac and plenty of others.

Per MLB Network, Thome’s first appearance will be May 1.

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Thome, who works with the White Sox as a special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn, is most looking forward to doing a little teaching on the show that he hopes gets through to some younger players.

“I’ve got a lot of drills I did when I played. So if I can teach that to the game, but also maybe to our youth side of the sport and also the college side,” he said. “Maybe you say something that helps a player and he goes out and does well. And that’s what it’s all about.”

This move to TV isn’t necessarily something that Thome ever expected, though it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to fans and observers who remember his personality from his playing days.

“I didn’t (ever think about doing this). I have to say, I never thought about, ‘Would I ever be an analyst? Would I ever get on the media side?’” Thome said. “I always say in baseball you never say never. If an opportunity comes up that fits your family schedule and then your work schedule — my work schedule is this job with the White Sox. That’s really important to me because I’ve been here now almost five years. To me that’s important.

“So to have them all mix and translate and feed off one or the other, being around here maybe will help me on the other side as well. That was the most important thing for me.”

Of course, White Sox fans might be curious about another part of Thome’s future career: Will he ever return to the dugout?

After Ozzie Guillen and Robin Ventura served as the team’s managers for a combined 13 seasons, speculation over whether some other former White Sox could ever sit in the manager’s chair has been fairly common, and Thome has been part of those “what if” conversations along with guys like A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko.

“Again I answer that kind of the same thing with this, you never say never. If an opportunity comes up and you feel it’s a great opportunity, you know, think about it, getting a manager’s job would be a tremendous opportunity,” Thome said. “So I would definitely have to think about that, yes.”

As White Sox bats heat up, Todd Frazier feeling like himself after bumpy start to 2017

As White Sox bats heat up, Todd Frazier feeling like himself after bumpy start to 2017

Three games do not a comeback make, but Todd Frazier is feeling like his normal self again.

Frazier’s been battling a host of health-related issues since the start of 2017, including injuries to his finger and oblique that hampered him in the spring and most recently a bout with the flu that cost him six of eight games and saw him lose 10 pounds.

But the last three games have been more like it for Frazier, as the White Sox third baseman has gone 4-for-12 with five RBIs, four runs scored, three doubles and a pair of walks. In Tuesday’s win over the visiting Kansas City Royals, Frazier had a pair of doubles, matching his total from his previous 12 games.

“It was weird to start off with the finger on something weird that happened last year and that turned into a cast. And then the oblique. It has been a crazy ride,” Frazier said after Tuesday’s game. “That’s why this game you’ve got to work your butt off in the offseason and be ready now, and I feel like I’m getting back to where I need to be.

“I feel fine. I’m good. I’m trying to lift as much as I can. Maybe a little soreness from lifting trying to gain some muscle and some weight back. Trying to eat as much as I can too as well.”

The time off would be enough to knock someone off their game, but Frazier — who posted career lows with a .225 batting average and .302 on-base percentage last season — was still looking to heat up after struggling to produce through the season’s first few weeks. In his first 10 games, the veteran third baseman slashed just .091/.189/.212 with just three hits and one RBI.

So Frazier has been studying up. The entire White Sox lineup has feasted in the first two games of the current series against the Royals, combining for 22 runs on 29 hits. But Frazier credited his personal success to some of the work he’s been doing.

“Just doing my homework,” he said Wednesday. “I’m just trying to go back and understand what I did in the other years  that made me hit the ball better. Talk to the coaches. At the end of the day, it’s mental, that’s all it is. You’ve been hitting for all these years now, just got to understand to focus.

“We see these pitchers a lot. People always told me, ‘You’ve got the upper hand, you see these guys all the time.’ So let’s start figuring out what they’re throwing.”

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Tuesday night, Frazier served as the White Sox designated hitter, the second time he’s been in the lineup but not in the field this season, matching the number of times he played DH in 2016, his first year with an American League team.

While it presented a change of pace, Frazier had a positive review of something he hasn’t done very often.

“I liked it. Every once and a while I think you need a day like that,” he said. “I think we’ve got a lot of guys that can do it. It was good to get Matt (Davidson) in there at third base, get his body going a little bit out in the field a little bit more. It’s like, ‘You got a day off, you’re DH’ing.’ Not really. You’ve got to keep the body moving, keep staying loose. It worked out well for everybody.

“I did a little heavy lifting in the legs the day before, and Rick (Renteria) didn’t even know about that. I was a little sore, and I was like, ‘Good, I got a little DH spot today,’ which was great for me, and now I can focus on defense, as well.”

In baseball, fortunes can change on a daily basis, so who knows if this will be the start of a surge for Frazier or just a brief spike in a long season. But if the White Sox can get Frazier and the rest of the lineup to keep hitting like they have the past few games, it could mean big things.

“Everybody focused and prepared,” Frazier explained when asked about the big run totals in the last few games. “I think the little things, guys getting here earlier, guys wanting to get out there and take extra work, and the focus and determination that we’ve got going right now is pretty nice. Nobody’s trying to do too much.

“You see our plate approach, you see guys hustling out balls. You watch guys like Avi Garcia, he’s got two big infield singles for him. At the end of the year, you look back at some things like that, a guy hits a one-hopper to second base and beats out a ball. That takes your average from .250 to .260 if you get three or four of those. Examples: Leury Garcia beating out a ground ball, getting a play overturned because of hustle. We don’t lack that this year, and I think that’s something big that we’re working on.

“Win, lose or draw, we’re going to give 100 percent. We know we’ve got Rick Renteria coming in here telling us ‘Nobody’s feeling sorry for you. So pick yourself up. We’re professionals. We’re White Sox.’ I think that’s what we’re going by right now.”