Streaking White Sox win sixth straight game

208993.jpg

Streaking White Sox win sixth straight game

Friday, July 9, 2010
Updated 11:31 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO On the night the Chicago White Sox learned that ace hurler Jake Peavy would indeed be lost for the season, they found themselves facing a herky-jerky lefthander who pitches as if hes detaching his latissimus dorsi with every toss.

Kansas City Royal Bruce Chen indeed lofted up a fair share of hittable Wiffleballs to the plate on Friday, falling down deep into the rabbit hole that the U.S. Cellular Field pitchers mound has become for opposing pitchers and losing to the white-hot White Sox, 8-2.

Chen had more luck pitching to first base, with two pickoffs, than he did to home plate, and was rewarded for his soft tosses with a shower after just 65 pitches.

Meanwhile the Chicago 9 played a pedestrian game, again striking early and once more finding themselves the beneficiaries of a stellar starters effort, this one coming from old hand Mark Buehrle.

But oh, how quiet and passive much of this game was. The men in black are clearly bored with all the winning, what with six in a row, 19 of 23, 23 of 28, and who knows how many other Sudoku puzzle combinations theyve amassed this summer.

And after the game, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen cheekily acknowledged the doldrums of winning, chastising assembled media for a lack of engaging questions: You guys are shocked were winning. When were losing, you guys have 30 questions for me!

Ah, Ozzie, living la dolce vita comes at a cost. Even the scribes must guard against the delicious malaise of a limitless winning streak.

Sure, there was a home run, from A.J. Pierzynski in the fourth, to run Chen. And then another, in the eighth, a three-run blast for the catchers first multi-homer game since 2008. The Campbells Soup Kid left shortly after games end, but his skipper knew just how much the clouts meant.

A.J. was really struggling, Guillen said. He really needed this game.

There was even a near-homer from Andruw Jones to plate two in the second, a screaming double that dented the outfield wall some six feet short, leaving the Curacaoian still one round tripper shy of 400.

I thought I got it, but it was a changeup and the topspin knocked it down, Jones said.

There was spiffy defense, including Gordon Beckham playing mini-Willie Mays to dash out to gather a short pop from Scrabble master Yuniesky Betancourt and a couple of afterburner flies snagged by turfeater centerfielder Alex Rios.

And pitching, yes, there was some of that. Buehrle celebrated his first start with 10 Chisox seasons under his belt by earning his eighth win of the season to get back above sea level. It was an unmasterfully exasperating, anesthetically efficient seven-plus inningstypical Buehrle, 114 pitches that insomniatic Royals hitters will ViewMaster through while staring up at the ceiling tonight.

Buehrle nearly didnt last long enough to see the win. In eerie reminiscence of three days earlier, when Peavy snapped a muscle and walked off the mound and into muscle rehab, K.C. leadoff man Scott Podsednik drilled the starter with a line drive for the first hit of the game. After a lengthy powwow on the mound with Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper, while 25,572 fans turned blue holding breath, Buehrle ignored his rapidly numbing fingers to finish out the inning with little other negative fanfare.

I told him not to hit is so hard next time, is how Buehrle recounted scolding Podsednik, a teammate over two separate White Sox stints. Then hes on first, dancing back and forth for 20 pitches. I told him, Just go, steal, so I can stop throwing over to first.

Wunderkind fireballer Sergio Santos came on relieve Buehrle in the eighth. One guesses that with the ease the southpaw put on display for the first seven, he simply got tired of the baseball game and retired to the clubhouse for some Twittering, or Super Mario Bros.

Nevertheless, it was frying pan to the fire for the City of Fountains, as Santos dismissed the Royals in the eighth with a mere eight tosses.

In the bottom half, Paul Konerko golfed a gapper to the wall in right-center to plate Rios, Chicago momentarily believing they were paid by the hour in an attempt to extend the game. Two batters later, Pierzynski launched his bomb to right to put the White Sox up by a hard eight and qualifying the game as an official laffer.

White Sox reliever Jeff Marquez came on for his major league debut in the ninth and coughed up a two-run homer to Betancourt, but thankfully for the rookie, the Royals had already long retired from this game.

The Triple Play

Saturdays Pitching Probables (6:10 p.m., WGN)

White Sox RHP Gavin Floyd (4-7, 4.43 ERA)

Royals RHP Brian Bannister (7-6, 5.54 ERA)

Super Sox

A.J. Pierzynski was 2-for-3 with two homers and four RBI, snapping an extended slump and raising his average to .243. Funny, you wonder whether when things are going well and the backstops characteristically crucial feistiness is less necessary, Pierzynski flags a bit. Come dog days, as the Chisox need some help digging deep, the Campbells Soup Kid is sure to stand up and be counted.

White Sox Notable Numbers

The White Sox have won six straight, 12 of 13, 19 of 23, and 23 of 28 Their five losses over the last 28 games have been by a total of eight runs, and none of the five losses were by more than two runs They are 12-1 in their last 13 at U.S. Cellular Field The starters are 18-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 26 quality starts in their last 29 games and a 1.77 ERA in the eight games since July 2 Pitchers allowed their first run in 18 innings and first earned run in 31 innings Buehrle is 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his last six starts, and is now 21-11 with a 3.56 ERA in his career vs. K.C. Konerko is hitting .359 with six homers and 30 RBI in his last 35 games Carlos Quentin is batting .341 with seven homers and 14 RBI in his past 14 games.

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

One year later, White Sox have clear direction, no longer 'mired in mediocrity'

One year later, White Sox have clear direction, no longer 'mired in mediocrity'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s been one year since Rick Hahn uttered those three magic words to signal that the White Sox would soon begin a massive rebuild: mired in mediocrity.

Disappointed by another season of middling play despite a roster led with top talent but short on depth, the general manager suggested the White Sox needed a new direction last July 21.

At the time, Hahn only noted that the White Sox were no longer interested in acquiring short-term pieces and they would re-evaluate their future. Ten days later, the front office began a thorough overhaul that has since seen the completion of four franchise-altering deals for young, controllable, top-flight talent by trading reliever Zach Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charlie Tilson. The White Sox sped their rebuild up incrementally in December and have since traded away Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, Tommy Kahnle, Todd Frazier and David Robertson. The series of moves has made it easily apparent where the White Sox are headed.

“It just make it official that it’s a rebuild,” infielder Tyler Saladino said. “You know you’re not in between or what are we going to do? It establishes what’s going on here for everybody.”

The White Sox received a boatload of criticism when the nonwaiver trade deadline passed last Aug. 1 and only Duke had been traded.

One report indicated that the White Sox asked for a “king’s ransom” for Sale, who remained with the club even after his second volatile outburst of the season produced boxes full of slashed throwback jerseys and a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property. A grade-based ESPN article assigned Hahn an ‘F’ for the failure to begin the rebuild before the deadline. Two weeks later, a reported schism in the front office between Hahn and Kenny Williams over the club’s direction prompted chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to call CSN’s David Kaplan to inform him that his decision makers were “in lockstep” and the team’s decision would be easy to detect soon enough.

And just like that it was.

The White Sox switched managers in October, hiring development-oriented Rick Renteria only a day after Robin Ventura walked away. A month later, Hahn spelled it out again at the GM meetings that the White Sox intended to get younger.

And then the exodus began. First went Sale. Then Eaton. There was a brief interlude as the club signed Cuban free agent Luis Robert for $52 million in May. But the exits have since continued with the trades of Quintana, Frazier, Kahnle and Robertson.

“The fact that they've been able to do as much as they have in this short period of time is kind of impressive,” Renteria said. “We're sad to see a lot of the guys (go) that were here with us because they were good White Sox. But everybody knows the direction we're going in and we still go out there and play to try to get a ballgame every single day, so that's part of the process.”

First baseman Jose Abreu said he understands the process and has bought into what Hahn and Co. are selling. Abreu looks at the organization as a whole and believes the White Sox, who now possess 10 of the top 68 prospects in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com, are in better shape than they were a year ago. So even if the team is headed for an ugly final two months, Abreu believes it’ll be worth it.

“We all know that in this process you are going to rough moments and you’re going to feel sometimes like things aren’t going the way they are supposed to go, especially with the trades,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “But if you see now we are a much better organization, especially with all of the young talent we are getting. That’s part of the process too. You are pointing up to the future. All of those positions are for the future, and we are looking for good things to come.”

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since

Adam Engel stepped into the batter’s box for his first major league at-bat in May armed with a batting stance that, to say the least, wasn’t conventional. 

Engel’s hands were pushed far away from his body and were level with his head. His bat pointed straight up in the air, and his right (back) arm was raised above his left (front) one. On first glance, you had to wonder — how can that be comfortable? 

“That’s something that I probably wouldn’t coach a little kid to do,” Engel said. 

But there was a well-thought-out method to Engel’s stance. He used the word “tension” in describing what he was trying to avoid by thrusting his hands high and away from his body. And as White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson noted, nobody does anything well when they’re tight. 

“The closer I get my hands to my body, I tend to grab the bat a little harder, which causes a chain reaction I don’t want,” Engel said. “As long as my hands get to where I want them before I start swinging, that’s the goal.”

Since arriving in the majors two months ago, though, Engel has lowered his hands and dropped his back elbow. Here’s the difference in his stances between his first career hit (May 27) and his first career home run (June 25)

And almost a month later, Engel's gradually brought his hands lower:

For a rookie, tinkering with hand placement can be hazardous. But Engel’s batting stance has been a work in progress for a while now, as evidenced by what it was back in spring training of 2016:

Even during spring training in 2017, Engel’s stance was closer to what it was in 2016 than what it was when he made his major league debut:

But here’s the point Steverson made about all those tweaks and changes: As long as it helps Engel get the barrel of his bat to the point of contact, who cares how it looks before the swing?

“At the point of contact, 99.9 percent of every hitter looks the same,” Steverson said. “… How you get it done is based upon timing and your inner functions. But can I get it to here on time is what it’s all about. There’s many myriad ways of doing that. You’re not going to teach somebody to do that because there’s not their functions. 

“… You got guys (in basketball) taking free throws different — did it go in the bucket or did it not go in the bucket? It’s kind of the same way with hitting. Can I get the barrel to the point of contact or can I not get the barrel to the point. And that’s the end of the story.”

The 25-year-old Engel is still trying to find his way through his first major league season, hitting .233 with a .317 on-base percentage and a below-average .650 OPS.  But he’s had some sporadic positive results, like his four-hit game against the Minnesota Twins June 22. 

There’s a fine line between finding a batting stance and hand placement that you’re comfortable with and tinkering too much, especially for a player as green as Engel. But he’ll continue to put in the work trying to find something that will yield consistent success — and that may mean another batting stance that sticks out. 

“it’s just pregame work, watch a lot of video on the starter before the games and then try to work all my work pregame, batting practice, swings in the cage, try to have a mindset that I’m going to have in the game,” Engel said. “Work on the mindset, and then when I step in the box, it’s as close to practice as it can be.”