Thome's revenge: Winning blast puts Sox four back

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Thome's revenge: Winning blast puts Sox four back

Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010
Updated 12:19 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

MINNEAPOLIS Before Tuesday night's game, Bobby Jenks was nonplussed by the Minnesota Twins.

These three games, yeah, they are important, but not that important, said the erstwhile Chicago White Sox closer. Its not going to matter what we do here if we cant go out and beat the rest of our division.

True enough. But the White Sox would do well to at least stay in Minnesotas rear-view mirror, eh?

Such a goal is becoming less and less of a physical possibility, as the Pale Hose struck two unlikely rallies but still could not drop the Twins.

Jim Thome hit a walk-off, two-run homer to lead Minnesota to a 7-6 win in 10 innings, before a 54th straight sellout at Target Field.

It feels good, Thome said after the game, bleary-eyed from a shaving cream pie dealt him for his heroics. I know I was in for a challenge against Matt Thornton. I couldnt get his first fastball, but then I caught him. Its such a great win for us.

If it was Denard Span who hit the winning home run, Id be crying right now, said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who declared that hed take the matchup of Thornton vs. Thome over and over again. But Jim Thome has what, 600 home runs? Tip your hat, come back tomorrow ready to win.

Alexei Ramirez had extended the game to extra innings with a leadoff, ninth-inning home run off of Minny closer Matt Capps, then pushed home the apparent winning run in the 10th with a single to center field. But the White Sox could muster no more; after rallying to load the bases with one out, Paul Konerko hit into a 4-6-3 double play to extinguish the threat.

As far as can be told, the hustle points the White Sox receive for battling back from a 4-0, first-inning deficit, or tying the game at five in the ninth, or pushing ahead 6-5 in the 10th dont count in the standings. Chicago dug a four-run hole for the second straight game, and starter John Danks put it all on himself.

I put us in a hole against a good team, he said. Ive relied on my cutter all year, and I didnt have it today. We fought back, but I didnt do us any favors.

Tuesdays mugging came in the first frame and was perpetrated by Orlando Hudson (solo homer), Jason Kubel (two-run triple) and Thome (RBI single through the shift), threatening to bury the White Sox early.

Yet as the early night air in the Great White North squeezed wafer-thin, balls started flying off the White Sox bats as well. Konerko led off the second inning with a solo shot, followed two batters later by Mark Kotsay, who deposited out a two-run bomb. Two innings later, it was A.J. Pierzynski scoring Kotsay with a double that completed the comeback.

Minnesota took the lead on Delmon Youngs seven-iron shot in the fifth inning, which put the Twins up by one and reliever Glen Perkins in line for the win. Perkins, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain strung together 3 13 innings of scoreless relief seemingly to ice the game for Minnesota.

Danks indeed may have deserved a better fate, having fought back after tossing 48 pitching in the first two innings and spreading just 56 over the next five frames.

Despite assuming the responsibility for the loss, it was Danks who sounded determined after this disappointing loss even as he was encumbered by the sobriety of a four-game deficit in the standings.

We know we have a good team over here, and weve rallied hard all season. Were a tough bunch of guys, Danks said. Were not going to stop fighting until they tell us theres no reason to fight any more.

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

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

The word of the day Thursday around the cramped confines of the visitor’s clubhouse at Wrigley Field was normal, as in getting things back to it with ace left-hander Chris Sale taking the mound after serving a five-game suspension for “insubordination and destruction of team property.”

A completely abnormal story — Sale cut up the 1976 throwback uniforms he didn’t want to wear last Saturday and was sent home for his actions — gave way to a relatively routine evening. Sale allowed two runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts over six innings, though the White Sox lineup was shut down by John Lackey and the Cubs’ new three-headed bullpen monster in a 3-1 Crosstown loss.

“Things were pretty normal,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Guys got here, not a different clubhouse or anything like that. I think everything went fairly normal as far as him going out there and pitching and it was about baseball.”

First baseman Jose Abreu said things felt like an ordinary Sale start, even though the American League’s All-Star starting pitcher hadn’t pitched since July 18. He didn’t have his best stuff and wasn’t his sharpest, either — those three walks were his highest total in over two months — as he wasn’t able to consistently paint the corners with his explosive arsenal of pitches.

But, as usual, Sale worked quickly and kept his team in the game against one of baseball’s best offenses.

“He pitched a very good game,” Abreu said through a translator.

The Cuban first baseman added: “I think that we already moved on.”

Catcher Dioner Navarro agreed.

“He gave us a great outing, we just weren’t able to score any runs for him,” Navarro said.

Before the game, third baseman Todd Frazier said he and his teammates rallied around Sale and hoped a solid outing from the 27-year-old left-hander would put the bizarre incident squarely in the rearview mirror. 

“Some mistakes are bigger than others but you gotta understand that we’re all not perfect,” Frazier said. “Things do happen in this game, different things that you think (you’ve) never seen before, and then it happens. It’s just one of those things, hopefully it goes away quick with the way he pitches."

Sale said he didn’t discuss the incident or his suspension with his teammates before the game to keep things as normal as possible. After he showed up a little after 4:40 p.m., he received hugs and handshakes from teammates welcoming him back following his five-day exile.

But after that, Navarro said things were business as usual. He and Sale went through the gameplan and got ready to face the Cubs' powerful lineup instead of dwelling on what happened last Saturday. Eventually, Sale will talk to his coaches and teammates on a personal level to “let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at, and let them know how much I appreciate them.”

With the White Sox playoff hopes flickering as the trade deadline approaches, though, Sale’s teammates are eager to keep the focus on trying to dig themselves out of a substantial, two-games-under-.500 hole.

“Everything’s in the past,” Navarro said. “He did a great job. Quality start, nothing else you can ask.” 

Chris Sale good in return but White Sox lose to Cubs

Chris Sale good in return but White Sox lose to Cubs

He wasn't as sharp as a knife, but Chris Sale was still pretty good in his return to the mound on Thursday night.

Following a nine-day layoff, including a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property, Sale pitched well enough for a victorious return. But John Lackey and the Cubs bullpen were even better and the White Sox fell 3-1 in front 41,157 at Wrigley Field and had to settle for a Crosstown Cup series split.

Sale, who also singled in two at-bats, allowed two runs and six hits with three walks in six innings. The White Sox dropped to 50-52 as they head to Minneapolis for a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.

Nobody quite knew what to expect as Sale returned to his team for the first time since he was sent home Saturday for destroying the 1976 throwback uniforms the team was supposed to wear that night.

“It could go a lot of ways,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “But I expect him to show up. He’s mature enough and he knows what he’s doing. 

“It’s weird. It’s a crazy situation, but I think if somebody can handle it it’s him. Hopefully, he deals today and we won’t talk about this for a little bit.”

Wearing a suit for the road trip to Minneapolis, Sale smiled as he arrived in the visiting clubhouse at 4:42 p.m. Upon entering the constricted confines of the visiting clubhouse, Sale was greeted by a series of fist bumps and hugs. Seated on the floor, outfielder Melky Cabrera shouted “my man” and jumped up to bear hug Sale, stealing a second hug as the pitcher walked away. Todd Frazier and J.B. Shuck also instantly met Sale before he headed to his corner of the clubhouse and teammates Navarro, Matt Albers, Carlos Rodon and Tyler Saladino walked over, too.  

With his return coming in the midst of the Crosstown Cup finale, teammates were uncertain what kind of atmosphere Sale would face at Wrigley.

“I know the crowd’s going to be a little crazy,” Frazier said. “I think everybody in the world kind of knows what happened, and we’re on the North Side, so we’re going to hear some crazy stuff here.”

About 40 minutes before first pitch, Sale began to warm up in right field. Near the end of his long-toss session with Navarro, Sale walked to the bullpen and handed a young girl wearing a Sale T-shirt a baseball. As he began to throw off the mound, a number of curious fans began to snap pictures with their phones (even a beer vendor briefly stopped). Another, wearing a green pinstriped Jon Garland White Sox jersey, took a selfie as Sale warmed up. Though a few wisecracks were made, the scene was relatively tame.

With Sale returning only hours before he took the mound, Ventura -- who hadn’t talked to his pitcher in several days -- didn’t expect the left-hander would have much time to address teammates. He thought Sale might talk to players a few at a time over the next few days, though Frazier believed it might happen before he pitched Thursday. Asked if he thought Sale would apologize, Frazier said: “That’s a good question. I think he knows what he did wrong. I think he’s a guy of his word. I think he understands how much winning means to him. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to him and, you know, he’s ready to go. He just wants to play. I’m sure he’ll talk to us before the game. Whatever he has to say, if it deals with winning, we’ll take it.”

The White Sox offered their All-Star a welcome back gift with an early run when Melky Cabrera doubled in a run in the first inning.

But Lackey found a rhythm and retired 16 of 19 after Cabrera’s double. No out was bigger than the last of the sixth inning as Lackey induced a pop up on the infield from Jose Abreu with the go-ahead run at first.

Down 2-1, the White Sox threatened once more in the eighth inning as Saladino doubled off Hector Rondon. Rondon recorded two outs before Aroldis Chapman took over and struck out Cabrera with the tying at third.

The effort was enough to outdo Sale, who was hurt by walks in the first and third innings.

Dexter Fowler drew a nine-pitch leadoff walk in the first inning and Kris Bryant, who homered off Sale in the All-Star Game earlier this month, nearly did it again, settled for an RBI double off the centerfield fence. Sale stranded the go-ahead run however, retiring Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras to keep it tied at 1.

After Sale hit Fowler and walked Bryant to start the the third, Zobrist hit a comebacker just past Sale in the third for an RBI single and a 2-1 Cubs lead.

But even though he wasn’t pinpoint, Sale never broke.

After stranding a runner at third base in the first inning, he did it again in the fifth. He also struck out pinch-hitter David Ross with two on in the sixth. Though it didn’t result in a victory, Sale gave the White Sox what they needed.

“He's a great kid,” Ventura said. “This doesn't change that. We've seen him do some really great stuff. I know I've done some stuff that I wouldn't want people to know. We're in an age where in what he's doing is his job, but sometimes you don't get that luxury. I think for him, he's just going to go pitch and we'll move on from there.”

Robin Ventura isn't convinced White Sox will sell at deadline

Robin Ventura isn't convinced White Sox will sell at deadline

There’s been plenty of smoke and trade rumors this week, but Robin Ventura doesn’t get the sense a deal is forthcoming.

The White Sox manager acknowledged on Thursday afternoon his role in trade dealings is minimal as general manager Rick Hahn and his staff have fielded all the phone calls, with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana believed to have drawn the most interest. Jon Heyman reported Thursday the New York Yankees are the latest team to have inquired about Sale’s availability.

As busy as Hahn has been this week, his phone apparently ringing off the hook, Ventura isn’t convinced the White Sox will be sellers come Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

While it could simply be another round of posturing as teams angle to best position themselves, the White Sox headed into Thursday’s finale against the Cubs 50-51 with at least a pulse when it comes to the postseason.

“This week probably led to some more phone calls, of people calling just to see what's going on with us,” Ventura said. “I think our guys should look at it as a nice thing that people are calling and asking about you because that means people want you. But I don't want to see anybody go out of here. I don't think that's going to happen.”

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The White Sox managed to stay afloat even though Sale was gone for five games with a 4-1 mark in his absence. That included two walkoff victories over the Detroit Tigers and a pair of wins against the Cubs on Monday and Tuesday. Ventura acknowledged a win behind Sale on Thursday would be a big boost as the club heads into a three-game series at the Minnesota Twins on Friday.

The run comes almost a year after the White Sox rolled off seven straight victories to inch their way back into the wild-card race in 2015. That week of victories convinced the White Sox to hold off from trading free-agent-to-be Jeff Samardzija. The next four games could very well decide the fate of several players as Hahn said last Thursday the club is open-minded in trade talks and sick of being “mired in mediocrity.”

“I hope we do it again,” Ventura said. “That decision isn’t mine and I’m not taking or making any phone calls. For me I hope we do it again.”

Last year the White Sox collapsed after they didn’t trade Samardzija, who fell apart and went 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA in his first eight starts after the deadline. The White Sox rotation is in much better shape than last season’s with the recent success of James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez. The team also is hopeful Carlos Rodon could return on Sunday to accompany Sale and Quintana.

Though the offense has been inconsistent, the group has improved and finally has another much-needed left-handed hitter for the middle of the order in Justin Morneau. So while the White Sox bullpen is beat up pretty good, Ventura thinks his club is better prepared for the stretch run.

“We’re probably better situated of sustaining that than last year,” Ventura said.