'Very very very' bad ninth inning stings Sox

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'Very very very' bad ninth inning stings Sox

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: April 8, 10:26 p.m. Updated: 12:06 a.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
CHICAGO It was much too early in the season for Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to be this exasperated.

But after Matt Thornton blew his second save in two tries on the young season in a ninth inning punctuated by very bad baseball, leading to a fall-from-ahead 9-7 loss to the heretofore-winless Tampa Bay Rays, Guillen was wiped out.

WATCH: Ozzie's unique plan

Asked whether he would shuffle his bullpen roles to take some of the pressure off Thornton, who drew the dreaded BS-L for the game, Guillen lost patience for the first time this season.

I might put a bomb out there and kill everyone, Guillen said in frustration. What are my plans? Hmph You look at the game, Thornton gave up the runs, but we didnt help him. What is the plan? Right now, what should I do? I dont think I should do anything right now.

Thornton was shaken but otherwise measured after the game, exuding confidence even in the face of his toughest setback of the season.

Its a three-run lead and inexcusable to give that up in that situation, he said. The team played so good all game long and did such a great job with our offense, once again. They had a nice little cushion for us but I couldnt shut the door on it.

Finishing off a somewhat preposterous first week of the White Sox season, Thorntons miss blew the win for John Danks, who himself struggled to get an out in the seventh and left the game as disgusted as hes ever been in a Chicago uniform.

In the seventh, that was just embarrassingtheres no other way of putting it, Danks said. You have a guy trying to give you an easy out and I cant even get the ball to him. I dont know. Its embarrassing We had it set up to make a play and help me get out of the inning. I couldnt help myself. Its in the past and you move on. It would have been nice to get out of that inning on my own.

Jesse Crain came on to relieve Danks with none out and the bases loaded and did well to allow just one run to pass, on a failed double play-turned-fielders choice.

Jesse did a hell of a job, Danks said. I left him in a pretty crappy situation, and he came in and did a great job.

The White Sox escaped the seventh leading 5-4 and were further buoyed by a two-run single from Mark Teahen in the eighth, providing what seemed to be icing on the cake and capping a terrific 3-for-4, three-RBI night.

Individually, it felt good to get out there and get some chances and produce, Teahen said. The goal is to win, and we came up short of that goal. Well get after it tomorrow.

Indeed, Teahens two-out knock turned out to be the equivalent of spitting on a cupcake and calling it frosting, as a half-frame later, the game fell apart for the Pale Hose.

Four hits off Thornton were spaced by a throwing error by Alexei Ramirez and a fielding error by Juan Pierre, culminating in the worst inning of baseball the White Sox have played all season.

In the ninth inning we played very bad baseball, Guillen said. People can point or do whatever they wantwe played a very good baseball game, all the way to the ninth. Thats Thorntons job, to go out there and save games but obviously we did not help to make the inning very easy.

The death knell was a game-winning, three-run homer by Dan Johnson, which propelled the Rays to their first win of the season, in front of a chilly and stunned Chicago crowd. It wasnt just Tampas first lead of the season, it allowed it to avoid dropping to 0-7, which would have been the worst start by a defending division champion in baseball history.

Aside from that pitch to JohnsonI made a mistake over the plate against himI felt like I was throwing the ball pretty well. They did the job putting it in play and making things happen for them.

Gordon Beckham (3-for-5 with three extra-base hits), Ramirez and Teahen had home runs for the White Sox.

For one night, the White Sox were left to traipse dangerously close to clich and line up behind a fallen teammate.

As clich as it sounds, its only one game, Danks said. We know these guys are going to play great defensethey did the whole game for me. It just happens. There really is no explanation for it. Matt threw the ball well and these guys made plays, a couple of plays didnt get made but all in all, we like our chances.

Keeping it in perspective

Thornton again was brutally honestand awfully sweetwhen asked when he will forget tonights ninth-inning meltdown.

Maybe when I see my daughter in the morning Ill forget about it.

1900 style

Taking until the ninth inning of their seventh game to hold their first lead made Tampa Bay the team taking the longest to hold a lead since the 1900 season.

Peavy Watch

Jake Peavy threw 71 pitches in his rehabilitation start on Friday for Double-A Birmingham at Montgomery, piling up strong numbers although failing to get through the fourth inning.

Everything went well tonight, he said. It was a step in the right direction. My arm felt better than it has in quite a while. I made some good pitches and some bad pitches. Overall, I was very, very pleased the way the night went.

The goal for the start was 75 pitches and five innings, so Peavy fell short of both in his effort, pitching 3 23 innings and giving up two unearned runs on five hits, with four strikeouts measured against a walk and a wild pitch.

I didnt command the ball the way I hoped, he said. But it was nice to be under some lights in a nice competitive atmosphere.

Unlike a controlled setting of a side session or simulated game, Peavy found that pitching against an aggressive Montgomery club scuttled his strategy for the start.

I didnt work on anything particular, he said. I was down here, and not speaking down about anything but they had very aggressive hitters tonight. I had to pitch a little backwards. When your command wasnt the best in the world as far as fastball and youre facing aggressive guys, you want to change speeds. I did a good job of that, keeping the ball off the barrel.

Peavy will work out on Saturday, with some running, lifting, and shoulder program work, then will join the White Sox for his first games with the teamstill inactive, watching from the dugout, of course.

But if you ask Peavy, hed be pitching for the White Sox next week.

Im going to let the White Sox make those decisions, he said. I dont want to stay down here working on anything. When my pitch count is where it needs to be I want to pitch in the big leagues five days from now. If it was up to me, I would throw 90 in the big leagues on Wednesday. Thats not realistic. So you do what the team asks you to do, and be smart.

"I feel like my arm strength is getting there. During Spring Training, I was facing big league hitters and big league lineups. I believe Im going to get outs. If it was reasonable to have a starter on 75 or 90 pitches, I would pitch in the big leagues tonight. But you have to be reasonable. I want to take the mound close to how Im used to taking it-- for the most part healthy and feeling like I can go out and do what Edwin did at times and on the days I dont have it battle to keep the team in it."

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms 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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