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.

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.