Ramirez's second homer is a walk-off winner

444053.jpg

Ramirez's second homer is a walk-off winner

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Posted: April 12, 10:49 p.m. Updated: 12:12 a.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago White Sox entered their 11th game of the season at 6-4, a seeming letdown for a club that even manager Ozzie Guillen has acknowledged could easily be 9-1 at this juncture.

WATCH: Ozzie upset with Sox fans

But a .600 winning percentage gets you 97 wins on the major-league slate, even any Baseball Prospectus antimatter wouldnt require that many Ws to win the American League Central.

The White Sox upped that winning percentage to .636 with an improbably sloppy win, a game that started strong, got truly slushy in the middle, then finishing in thrilling fashion, as Alexei Ramirez launched a two-out solo homer in the 10th his second round-tripper of the game to send the Pale Hose home victorious, 6-5. It was the first game-ending home run of Ramirezs career.

The notoriously slow-starting Ramirez equaled his April home run output over the first three years of his career with Tuesday nights output, and the quiet shortstop has applied some fuzzy meteorology toward the solution to the problem.

Four years ago it was a lot colder than it was now, he said. Im just making the best of what the climate is and Im enjoying it.

Alexei has been great over the years against lefties, a very dangerous hitter, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I almost got him to swing 3-0 he was looking at me. I wanted someone on base but the last thing you expect is a home run.

Hes swung the bat very well this is the best month of April hes swung the bat. He got a big hit for us early in the game, especially against Trevor Cahill. Cahill is a kid who throws a lot of ground balls. I never thought wed hit a home run in April in this weather against him, and Alexei did.

The White Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead courtesy of Ramirezs first homer, the three-run blast Guillen was referencing. The White Sox then kept the train rolling vs. the recently-extended righty, pushing across one more run on a Paul Konerko fielders choice.

The bounty proved too big for White Sox starter Edwin Jackson, coming off his best start in a White Sox uniform, his eight-inning masterpiece vs. the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. The righthander scuffled through every inning and was knocked from the box at 100 pitches and one out short of qualifying for his third win of the season.

Today, I just had no feel for my off-speed pitches, Jackson said. Everything came out spinning. You have to compete with what you have, and try to keep the game as close as possible.

One of the toughest decisions we had to make today is taking Jackson out with one out left in the fifth, Guillen said. He couldnt get the win. It was a bad feeling about it. There was a lefty hitter out there, and I wanted to switch him around. Thats the reason we made the move.

Jacksons body language slowly stalking off the field, looking back at Ramirez (who had just made his first error and second miscue of the inning) twice while leaving betrayed just how furious he was at the inefficient effort.

I dont know any starter that is going to be pretty happy going 4 23 innings, he said. Its definitely not helping the pen out, and you want to be in there as long as possible. But its part of the game and one of those things.

The sixth inning was reserved for the worst of the White Sox tonight. First, Tony Pena came on as the third pitcher of the night and promptly surrendered a single to Mark Ellis and a home run to Kevin Kouzmanoff - Oaklands seventh and eighth hitters - turning what had been a 4-3 lead upside-down. Just one out later, Alex Rios dropped a fly ball for an error, the outfields fifth in just 11 games.

The Bronx cheers from the U.S. Cellular Field crowd all game long and intensified after Rios drop bothered Guillen.

I know were not playing well weve made a couple mistakes that cost us a couple games, but every time we catch the ball and fans are going to boo, I dont think thats fair, Guillen said. I know we all want to win, but every fly ball were going to get booed? Dont kick the outfield when theyre down. Try to support them.

I dont see any better center fielder than Alex, and the way Juan plays for the White Sox the past couple years, I dont think he deserves every fly ball he catches to have people booing him. Youre going to boo someone, boo me. Because Im the one who makes the lineup and Im the one who plays those guys Weve only played 11 games. I played here for a long time. Its a bad feeling every time were booed when we catch the ball in the outfield.

Still, Guillen was pleased once again with how his team bounced back from a heartbreaking loss.

We needed this win bad, he said. With the loss last night, we bounced back again and played well.

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

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

He absorbed a ton of information in spring camp, but perhaps it’s what Michael Kopech observed watching Jose Quintana that could help most.

For five weeks in big league camp, the extremely motivated White Sox pitching prospect gleaned every piece of information he could from more experienced teammates.

Kopech and veteran starting pitcher James Shields discussed pitch sequencing and the importance of the changeup. Infielder Tyler Saladino talked with the No. 14-ranked prospect in baseball about visualizing success. Catcher Geo Soto told Kopech pretty much everything about life in the majors.

But even though he didn’t say much, Quintana’s practice sessions may have provided the most valuable lesson of all. The key takeaway, Kopech said, is how Quintana performs every action with a purpose. The young pitcher knows how critical the example Quintana provided is to his development and wants to implement a similar approach.

“(Pitching coach Don Cooper) likes to call it focused practice,” Kopech said. “For me that’s one thing I haven’t done well, is get locked in. You have to be locked in all the time. That’s something that came from Coop and all the big leaguers I was around. Quintana is a great guy to watch when it comes to stuff like that.

“That’s a guy that is a definition of a silent leader. He doesn’t talk about much. He goes and gets his work in and you can just watch him and know that’s the way the game should be played.”

[RELATED - Beginning to blossom: White Sox prospect Dane Dunning flourishes behind attacking style]

Kopech took a nice step forward in his development on Tuesday night when he pitched a season-high six scoreless innings for Double-A Birmingham. He struck out eight and allowed a hit while walking four and lowered his ERA to 2.50. The Texas native had only compiled 12 innings in his previous three outings because of “hit-and-miss” fastball command that led to 10 walks.

Along with perfecting his fastball command, one of the keys to Kopech reaching the majors is an increase in workload. Kopech — the 33rd overall pick of the 2014 draft — has never pitched more than 78 2/3 combined innings he produced last season. The White Sox would love for Kopech to reach the 180-inning mark by 2019.

“He doesn’t have a lot of innings under his belt,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He hasn’t been able to have that build up so that’s something we’re going to make sure he can focus on. We’re going to make sure he’s in the right spot so we can do that properly.”

In order for Kopech to eventually hit that mark, he’d need to pitch between 110-130 innings this season and then throw around 160 innings in 2018. But to reach those figures, Kopech must first pitch deeper into games.

Through his first three starts, Kopech worked on a strict pitch count that varied based on performance. If he was on, he could throw as many as 85 pitches. But if he ran into command issues, Kopech might only throw 75.

On Tuesday, Kopech pitched well enough to throw 95 pitches (65 strikes) against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. He thinks the key to consistency in games is directly tied to his effort in between. It’s yet another area where Kopech — who reads self-help books, is into Cryotherapy and salt baths and eats meals on the road pre-prepared by his nutritionist — strives to improve.

“From Day 1 to Day 4, you need to be just as focused as Day 5,” Kopech said. “I can’t stress that enough. If my bullpen tomorrow I lose a little focus, then I know I need to get right back into it to prepare for my next start. That’s something that’s going to have to kick in sooner than later.”

Birmingham manager Julio Vinas likes how Kopech has handled himself early in the season. Vinas thinks Kopech has the proper mindset and tools to be a special pitcher.

‘He’s got the right mentality and now it’s executing and it’s going to be there,” Vinas said.

He may have been there this spring, but Kopech preferred to not be seen or heard by his veteran teammates. Kopech couldn’t do anything about the onslaught of attention the media paid to him after he came over with Yoan Moncada in the Chris Sale trade. But he could control the rest of his time around teammates. Little by little, he’d engage the veterans without drawing too much attention.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

“I just didn’t want to make it about me,” Kopech said. “It was my first big league camp and a lot of those guys are getting ready for a big league season and I’m competing for a job that’s not necessarily on a big league roster right away. I was just trying to take care of my business. All ears, not really any talk and take away as much as I could without pissing anybody off, really.

“I got the chance to face some good hitters and take away a lot of knowledge from older guys and I think that’s the best I could do to prepare for the season.”

But Kopech agrees the best preparation came from watching Quintana, who Cooper always lauds for his practice effort. Kopech hopes to be able to emulate how the 2016 All-Star pitcher handles himself soon enough.

Kopech thought he focused well from the second through the fourth inning in an April 20 start at Tennessee. But he wasn’t as pleased with his effort in the first and fifth innings.

“That’s the way I want to lock in when I’m on the mound,” Kopech said of Quintana. “I haven’t been doing that, but it’s something I’m going to work on going forward.

“I have to remind myself to stay locked in even though I’m doing what I always do because I need to have the same focus (in practice) I do when I’m pitching on the mound.”

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu said he hopes to be ready to go when the White Sox start their series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday.

The White Sox first baseman took an awkward-looking fall on the infield grass while trying to field a grounder in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s win over the visiting Kansas City Royals, leaving the game with what the team announced as a mild right hip flexor strain. Abreu was labeled as day-to-day.

Manager Rick Renteria didn’t have any sort of update after the game — though he said he didn't think it was serious — but in his comments to reporters, Abreu said he felt fine after receiving treatment and will be ready to go for Friday’s series opener in Detroit.

“I feel good right now,” Abreu said. “I got treatment and I feel good. The day off tomorrow is going to help and I hope to be ready for the first game in Detroit.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Both Renteria and Abreu said the first baseman had no desire to exit Wednesday’s game but that Renteria was being appropriately cautious.

“He did not want to come out,” Renteria said. “He was pretty adamant but I think all of us, you don't take any chances. I think it was just the right thing to do at that time.”

“When you are on the field, you didn’t want to leave the field. It doesn’t matter what’s the reason or what’s happening,” Abreu said. “But he’s the boss and he made that decision and you have to accept it.”

Abreu went 2-for-2 with a two-out RBI double in the first inning Wednesday before he left. He has had two hits in each of his last four games and is 8-for-15 during the White Sox current four-game winning streak.

The White Sox are off Thursday. The team said Abreu will be reevaluated then after arriving in Detroit.