Friday, July 30, 2010
Updated 11:45 PM
By Brett Ballantini
While there was one significant change for the Chicago White Sox on Friday, a key constant remained: Home winning.
Mere hours after swapping rookie fifth starter Daniel Hudson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Edwin Jackson, the Chicago 9 trotted out onto the familiar turf of U.S. Cellular Field for yet another win, 6-1 over the Oakland As. The White Sox have won 12 straight and 19 of their last 20 at home.
Rookie Lucas Harrell, an early-morning call-up from the Class AAA Charlotte Knights, wound his way through six eventful innings to earn the win. In his first big-league start, the righty scattered four hits and five walks, striking out one. Harrell became the first White Sox starter since Kip Wells in 1999 to win his major league debut.
When I got the call this morning, I thought it was Brent Morel playing a trick on me, a beer-soaked Harrell said postgame. Then I heard, No, this is really Buddy Bell.
Thats a big day for Harrell, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I was glad. It was a special day for everyone. It doesn't get better than that.
The White Sox, who are now 3-1 in the rotation spot vacated by Jake Peavy, struck first, beginning with an Ozzieball run in their first at-bats: Juan Pierre leading off with an infield single, a one-out steal, and an Alex Rios RBI base knock.
Yesterday, we had four home runs, Guillen said. Today, we scored in different ways. We pick each other up. We dont have to wait for just one guy.
Despite just getting the call to the Show this morning, Harrell admitted being amped on the plane ride north. With no Major League Debut Motorcade available paging Mayor Daley, Harrell was tied up in traffic and didnt hit the clubhouse until 5:15, when he was embraced by former Knights teammate Dayan Viciedo, who started at third base and cruised to a 3-for-3 night.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski trotted to the mound on more than one occasion to calm the rookie, who admitted both pregame and in-game jitters.
A.J. just came out and said, 'be yourself, thats what got you here, Harrell said.
That simple advice worked, as Harrell worked out of several jams, stranding seven As baserunners. His biggest scare came in the second, when Harrell walked the bases loaded with two outs and escaped when Daric Bartons deep fly to center fell five feet short of a grand slam.
We were pulling for him, said Paul Konerko, who admitted he didnt have a feel for how Harrell was pitching because he wasnt sure if hed ever played behind him in a spring training game. They werent getting great swings on him, but that ball to the warning track carries a little, that would have been a different game.
In the fourth, the As briefly tied the game when Mark Ellis led off with a single to center and was advanced to third on Gabe Gross and Rajai Davis groundouts. Oakland scratched what would be its only run off Harrell when Cliff Pennington lined a single off the pitcher, scoring Ellis.
The tie didnt last long, as Konerko led off the fifth with a blast to right-center that fell just a few feet short of a home run, which would have made for his fifth straight game with a round-tripper. The first baseman settled for a double, and was driven home by Pierzynskis single. Viciedo pushed the feisty backstop to third with a double, and both runners would score before the inning was extinguished, Pierzynski on an Andruw Jones ground out and Viciedo on a Gordon Beckham single.
Chicago added two more tallies, in the sixth on another RBI single from Beckham and the seventh on a Konerko sacrifice fly.
Oaklands rally attempt in the eighth, having put two men on with none out, was extinguished with the first pitch from Tony Pena, who induced a double play from Kevin Kouzmanoff, then retired Ellis on a ground out to tourniquet the As on two pitches.
That was a big thing for us, Guillen said of Penas work. We didnt want to have to use Matt Thornton or Bobby Jenks. Two pitches, three outs, thats perfect.
Beckham, who made his major-league debut last season under slightly less tense circumstances, was full of admiration for Chicagos spot starter.
The first game is tough, and Harrells circumstances were not easy, he said. He was asked to help keep us in first place.
The rookie is already on his way back south to make room for new acquisition Edwin Jackson, but on a key transition day at the end of July, he did just that.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.