Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener

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Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
Updated 12:18 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen spent Monday dancing, gladhanding, and otherwise earning thousands of dollars for his charity. Judging by his vocal rasp on Tuesday, he was jigging late into the night, spinning through one of his favorite days all summer.

But one night later, with the bane of Guillens existence in town to begin a three-game visit, the manager watched his troops suffer yet another fall-from-ahead loss to the Minnesota Twins. The 9-3 setback pushed Minnesota seven games up with 18 games remaining, and little short of a rampant case of vertigo speeding through the Target Field clubhouse will stand in the way of a second straight division title for the Twins.

Losing is tough to swallow every timeyou go as hard as you can go but sometimes you come up empty, White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. I wish we were in first, but I dont feel like weve given them anything, theyve just taken it. Theres some peace with that. Sometimes you just get beat.

The manner of victory was anything but peaceful, however.

As per norm, the Piranhas drew first blood with a Delmon Young solo shot to lead off the fifth, chased by a two-out single from Denard Span, scoring J.J. Hardy. Cutting against recent form that being a 6-21 post All-Star break record vs. Minnesota since 2008 the White Sox came right back, posting two runs in the bottom half on an Alexei Ramirez single.

In the sixth, the White Sox pushed ahead 3-2 in typically inefficient form, A.J. Pierzynski turning a gift-wrapped, bases-loaded, no-out opportunity into a run-scoring double-play.

A couple times we had men on third base or bases loaded, no outs or one out, bases loaded, we score only one run, Guillen said. That was the difference in the game. We got a lot of opportunities and good chances, but we couldnt get the big hit.

Sometimes you have a runner at third base with no outs and youre not going to bring him in, sometimes hes going to be on first base with two outs and you bring him in, said designated hitter Manny Ramirez, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and five left on base. Thats part of the game.

Turning such potential bounties upside down into frowns was certain to turn tragic, and sure as soft serve, Minnesota stormed back with two in the top of the seventh, as Guillens favorite new Piranha, Danny Valencia, singled in a run and then scored one batter later, when Hardy doubled high off the wall in left-center.

The Chisox had their own chance to counterpunch in the seventh, loading the bases on singles by Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre and a walk to Alex Rios. But with the sacks packed and just one out, Konerko and Manny Ramirez were whiffed by Jesse Crain.

Im swinging the bat great and I did everything I wanted to do in the at-bat, Konerko said. Crain beat me. I can live with that. Thats the way it is.

Not content with a 5-3 lead, the Twins proceeded to slap a wicked little critta of a crooked number up on the board in the eighth, beginning with a run-scoring double from Jason Kubel, chased by J.J. Putzs walk to Valencia forcing in a run, and trumped altogether by a three-run error-ruled-double off the glove of Rios.

Chicago starter John Danks wasnt his sharpest, logging seven innings and giving up nine hits and four earned runs. Ultimately he paid for the effort by getting slapped with his 11th loss of the season.

I felt like I had enough stuff to get us a better result, said the self-critical southpaw. Give the Twins credit, theyre playing well right now. But I had plenty of stuff to give a better effort, and I let us down.

Twins southpaw Francisco Liriano wasnt sharp, but he pitched well enough to improve to 14-7, scattering six hits and three earned runs over six innings.

With futility vs. the Twins continuing to reign, to say there is urgency pulsing in the White Sox skipper is an understatement.

I dont know if the playoffs are impossible, but its going to be tough, Guillen said. Everybody is fighting right now, today we just came up short. We all know how important the next two games are. Hopefully well play better tomorrow than we did today and we win the next two games. Theyre going to be very big for us, huge.

The improbable and fuzzy math that equates to a White Sox division title was a topic of discussion in the clubhouse as well.

The White Sox have to win not only the next two, Ramirez calculated, but we have to win every game.

Were through the wall right now, Konerko said with regard to Chicago having its back against the wall. Before the series, you know coming back is tough and that you have to probably sweep. But now you just continue to play hard. You keep battling until they tell you that you cant battle any more. When the uniform goes on, you give it everything you got, whether youre 20 games out or seven.

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

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anthony Swarzak held a high-leverage audition for a potential contender on Sunday long before the Kansas City Royals walked off the White Sox.

The nonroster invitee to big league camp continued a stellar campaign as he took over in a critical spot midgame and helped the White Sox escape with the lead. The White Sox bullpen ultimately relinquished the lead and Brandon Moss sent them to their ninth straight loss — Kansas City won 5-4 — with an RBI double in the ninth inning.

But Swarzak continues to thrive in the opportunities handed to him and could make for an interesting trade chip before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“He’s been excellent,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s become for us, with (Nate Jones) going down and (Jake Petricka) going down he’s actually become a fireman. He’s come in in some of the highest-leverage situations we could possibly get. And then we use him for multiple innings.”

A free agent after the season, Swarzak has 50 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA in 47 innings for the White Sox this season. He also has only allowed nine of 33 inherited runners to score (27.2 percent), including two on Sunday. The American League average for inherited runners scoring entering Sunday was 30 percent, according to baseball-reference.com.

All this has come in a season where Swarzak went to camp with the White Sox with no certainty of making the 25-man roster. The right-hander not only thrived in camp, he came out strong in April with 19 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. Combined with early injuries to Jones and Zach Putnam, Swarzak’s performance helped him climb the totem pole in the White Sox bullpen from the outset. His stature has grown even more of late with the injury to Petricka as well as the trades of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.

“As far personal expectations, I’m right where I want to be,” Swarzak said. “More to accomplish for this year, absolutely. But I like what I’ve done so far and I like the opportunity that I have to accomplish even more.

“That’s the situation we all work so hard. That’s the situation we want and it’s why we all work so hard in the offseason in general is for situations like that.”

Swarzak took over for starter Derek Holland in the fifth inning with the White Sox ahead 4-3 and runners on the corners. He threw three straight sliders to Jorge Bonifacio and struck him out to strand the pair.

“It was huge, what he did coming in right there,” Holland said.

As significant as it was, it only held off the Royals for the time being. And as much as Swarzak has enjoyed things on a personal level, it isn’t making what the thinned-out White Sox roster is experiencing any easier to handle.

“Everything going on around here right now is pretty hard to swallow,” Swarzak said. “We’re going out there losing 8-0, 6-0, we’re up 6-0 and we end up losing. We lost a 1-0 game against the Dodgers and the next night we lose 10-1. We’re kind of losing all types of ways right now, which is really hard to swallow because as a bullpen guy we take pride in holding the lead and right now it seems like we’re not getting it done at all, any aspect of it, as a group.”

With eight more shopping days left before the deadline, chances are high that Swarzak may not be part of the current group much longer. He has already seen the departures of Robertson and Kahnle and knows his impending free agency could result in a trade elsewhere. But the veteran reliever is doing his best to keep his focus on the mound.

“It all comes back to quality pitches and getting guys out,” Swarzak said. “If you’re getting guys out, you’re going to get some attention from the league and if you’re not they’re going to close the book on you. It’s very straight forward for a pitcher, for a major league baseball player in general: Do better. Get it done and you’re going to play for a long time and you’re going to have the success that goes along with getting it done. That’s really all I’m worried about is continuing to make good pitches and hopefully get the results I’m looking for.”

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rick Renteria wants his players to be able to execute a bunt regardless of how much it drives White Sox fans crazy.

The White Sox manager wants to win now, but he’s also looking at the big picture.

Even though he knows how much a team’s chance of scoring decreases when an out is surrendered via the sacrifice bunt, Renteria is using the opportunity to see what abilities his players have. He wants to know what they can do.

Renteria is well aware that his calls for sacrifice bunts aren’t popular with fans (see: Twitter’s reaction to Yoan Moncada’s bunt tries on Saturday). But he also thinks there’s no better time to work on bunts than during a game. So as much fury as it brings, Renteria will continue to ask his players to work on a skill he’d like to see remain part of the game.

“Listen, (Moncada’s) a plus runner,” Renteria said. “He’s going to be able to use that as a part of his arsenal. I see a whole lot of home run hitters dropping bunts right now against shifts and things of that nature. I don’t think that art should disappear. We’re in the era of quote-unquote the long ball, but like I’ve said, sometimes you need to do certain things to kind of put your club in a better position.

"If you think that’s one of the things that’s available to you, you use it. I don’t think you’re necessarily giving it up in terms of an out, because when you’ve got guys who can run anything is possible. You end up loading the bases possibly. I know our guys are very cognizant of just playing the game. If they feel like they want to get two guys in scoring position on their own, they do it. It’s not something I want to take away from them. I think they read the defenses. Sometimes we talk about other ways of dealing with the defenses, but I think they’re understanding that we’re going to want that to be a part of all their abilities.”

As for the team’s execution, Renteria isn’t satisfied with the results. That means you can expect to see more bunts the rest of the way.

“It’s still a work-in-progress,” Renteria said. “I think that would be a falsehood to say we’re at the point where I go, I’m very, very happy with the way we lay down bunts. It’s still a work-in-progress, something that we’re going to continue to emphasize. Something we’re going to continue to work on. And then again, the only opportunities you get in real time are games, and that’s when you need ‘em.”