Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Updated: 12:25 AM
By Brett Ballantini
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.