Santos blows lead, game as Tigers sweep Sox

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Santos blows lead, game as Tigers sweep Sox

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011Posted: 4:17 p.m. Updated: 6:13 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
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WATCH: Pierzynski speechless at defeatWATCH: Axelrod pleased with startWATCH: Santos discusses blown save

It took this, the 75th loss of the season and one of seeming dozens of the heartbreaking variety, for A.J. Pierzynski to lose his voice.

Im out of words, the rapscallion catcher said, after a fall-from ahead, 6-5 Chicago White Sox loss in 10 innings to the Detroit Tigers. This is one of those things you cant stop. You play a really good game and have a three-run lead in the ninth, lose it. I get up in the ninth and get a good pitch to hit, hit it real hard and goes right to the second baseman for a double play.

A.J.s play-by-play tells the story. Pinch-hitter Alex Avila drove a Sergio Santos fastball 409 feet to right-center for his first career pinch-homer, tying the game. The game appeared to be salvaged in the last ups by the White Sox, who used two walks and a stolen base to push leadoff hitter Juan Pierre to third base with one out, but Pierzynski grounded into a double play to end the inning, punctuating his disgust with helmet slams and kicks both on the field and in the dugout.

Postgame, manager Ozzie Guillen admitted for the first time that the fire definitely had gone out in his team.

Hell no, their fight left three days ago, I don't care what they say, Guillen said, launching in to an instructional about how second place money could pay for Christmas gifts for his coaches kids. The fight? No, I dont see it.

Candidly, Guillens captain, Paul Konerko, admitted that Guillen was telling the truth.

Since we got knocked back there in Detroit two weekends ago, mathematically out and realistically out are two different things, he said. Hes probably right its probably been more than three games. But thats what comes with the territory this time of year Unfortunately at this point its become a job. You hope it stays fun and you hope you get to the playoffs, but that doesnt happen for everybody.

Guillen called the loss embarrassing, as per usual not mincing words.

It's embarrassing because we should have won this, he said. You start a kid Dylan Axelrod who just came from the Independent League, and he shut Detroit down. All of sudden these big-league pitchers couldn't stop them. Look at yourself in the mirror and see how big-league you are. If players are happy the season's over, good. But every time you lose a game like that and you have a little bit of pride, you should be ashamed of yourself. Those ones hurt. I have baseball running through my blood. It's hard to watch.

Axelrod indeed pitched extremely well in his first major league start, whiffing eight over six innings.

It's a shame. This kid's pitching very well and all of a sudden we just blew it for him, Guillen lamented. A very nice day, you see this kid having success in his first time in the big leagues, and all of the sudden, poof, another bad day for the White Sox.

Axelrods teammates were similarly bummed that the postgame beer shower evaporated with one swing from Avila.

He got the ball and did his job. He shut down a team that has been on a good roll, Santos said. Kudos to him that he did his job and he pitched fantastic.

He threw great. He deserved a win. He pitched really well, Pierzynski said. He changed speeds, moved the ball in and out, up and down. He threw really well for his first big league start. It was fun to watch and nice to see he creates a good angle to make the ball sink and cut. And he throws strikes and works fast, and thats what you are looking for.

Axelrod was as upbeat as possible after the game, perhaps as much a reflection of not having been around for the first five months of misery as his strong starting debut.

It was fun, just good to get out there and make my first start, show what I can do. I just had a blast out there, he said. It's nice to get individual accolades like wins and things, but it's a team game. Unfortunately we came out on the losing end, but I was happy with what I did and just want to continue to build off that.

With Axelrods no-decision in the books and the double gut-punch of Detroits rally and the White Soxs inability to tap in a run in the bottom or the ninth, the final result was hardly in doubt.

First and third with one out in the ninth, and we cant score, Guillen said. It the way weve played all year long.

In the 10th, Victor Martinez lined a one-out double down the right-field line, with Carlos Guillen following with an RBI single up the middle to provide the eventual victory.

Detroit, apparently now playing the role of the Minnesota Twins for the Pale Hose this season, have swept through Chicago for two straight series and beaten the White Sox in nine of 14 overall. Chicagos gilded pitching staff finished the season battered by the Bengals, sporting a 6.09 ERA and coughing up 106 total earned runs vs. Detroit in 2011.

The White Sox fell to 73-75 and back into third place in the Central, using this afternoons utter deflation as a springboard to the final road trip of the season, to Kansas City and Cleveland. And if any of the Chicago 9 cant find the motivation to finish out the next couple of weeks, the jefe has a message.

Whoever doesnt want to play, make sure you let me know, Guillen said. I dont want to waste my time playing people if they dont want to play, and keep suffering and getting older and wrinkled and white hair when a player doesnt care. Im not pointing any fingers at anybody, but if anybody out there doesnt want to perform, its easy: Call Kenny, call Jerry, make sure you stay home and get at it next year like I hear all the time in the paper. Have a better year next year.

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

White Sox prospect Zack Collins takes a major step toward making it as a big-league catcher

White Sox prospect Zack Collins takes a major step toward making it as a big-league catcher

Single-A Winston-Salem's Zack Collins is experiencing some newfound confidence when it comes to the catch and throw.

He should.

After he made a minor technical adjustment this spring, the White Sox first-rounder has dramatically improved his results in throwing out base runners early this season. The catcher has consistently reduced his throw time to second base by a tenth of a second. After he only threw out three of 21 stolen-base attempts in 2016, Collins has nailed 10 of 14 would-be thieves early this season.

Collins' correction is due in large part to a small change he and White Sox catching coordinator John Orton made in how the catcher positions himself as he releases the ball.

"What we noticed was when he tried to be quick throwing, his ball would seem to kind of die," said. "We looked at some video compared to some other guys that throw well and he wasn't using his front side, he wasn't on his legs enough to where he could use his lower half. 

"We saw it, he made the adjustment the next day and he felt it right away. He's basically carried that into the season. He's throwing great right now. 

"It doesn't normally work that way."

It's more than just a repositioning that has helped Collins. The No. 10 overall pick of the 2016 draft changed his dietary habits in the offseason and dropped 15 pounds. Collins also did Pilates to improve his mobility behind the plate.

Those aspects along with a strong attention to detail and quiet presence behind the plate had the White Sox pleased with how Collins showed in big league camp this spring. Early in camp, Orton said it didn't matter if Collins ever grew into a standout thrower because there are so many other important aspects of catching. He listed receiving/blocking, game-calling/handling the staff and hitting ahead of throwing in terms of importance.

But then Collins added a wrinkle and made what could be a significant adjustment. Prior to making the change, Collins' glove and front shoulder were pointed toward shortstop when he released to second base on a stolen-base attempt. Orton changed Collins' positioning and now has him throwing directly at the base. Collins instantly could feel a difference and his throws have been on target more often.

"I kind of closed myself off to second base," Collins said. "I get a lot more behind my throws and a lot better accuracy. That's the biggest thing.

"It feels great. It kind of feels normal now. Before it was a little weird, like I was closing myself off too much. But it kind of feels normal now and I get a lot of pressure off my arm and obviously the throw percentage is there."

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More important, the drastically-reduced times are there. 

Prior to making the change, Collins' throws to second base were somewhere around 2.08 to 2.10 seconds. In the first week of the season, Collins had reduced the time to 1.97 seconds and registered a 1.92 on one throw. He even posted several 1.87s in between innings.

"If you're under 2 and accurate you'll get most guys for sure," Orton said.

Collins has eliminated many attempts in the early going. He's throwing with confidence, too.
 
Recently, late in a tied game, Collins threw out a man headed to second base with a runner on third for the final out of the inning.

Winston-Salem manager Willie Harris was stunned to learn that Collins had improved from throwing out 14 percent of all base runners last season to 71 percent so far.

"Hell no I wouldn't even believe that," Harris said. "He's made some serious adjustments behind the plate.

"Collins is definitely a pro. He's going to have a very long career at the major league level. He does a lot of things right. He runs the staff. He knows when to make mound visits. He picks runners off at first, third, second."

The confidence the University of Miami product feels has carried over to social media. After Collins threw out another runner on Sunday, the team's Twitter account made a plea to Carolina League opponents to #KeepRunningOnZack. Colorado Rockies farmhand Willie Abreu, a former teammate of Collins at Miami, chimed in to inform the catcher he'd run on him all day.

Collins fired back: "You'd run on the other Zack Collins. Not the new one."

"It definitely helps and kind of gives me a little confidence behind my back knowing that I've found something that has helped me catch and throw," Collins said. "Obviously last year the numbers really weren't there during my first pro season. At the same time, I was kind of tired last year and didn't have as much behind my arm as I do now. I feel a lot better now."

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