Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010
Updated 1:23 AM
By Brett Ballantini
As table fan gives way to space heater, the Chicago White Sox season segues from 2010 competition to 2011 audition.
One problem: No one seems to have informed the Pale Hose, who have now won five of six after a thrilling, bottom of the ninth, 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night. Rookie Dayan Viciedo, pinch-hitting for veteran Mark Kotsay, was the hero, stroking the game-winning single with one out.
I had to take a risk, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. Kotsay struggles vs. left-handed pitchers, and Dayan was the only guy left who could play first base.
Juan Pierre had initiated the final-frame rally by roadrunning a one-out single to short and then stealing second and third on successive pitches by Dustin Richardson. Omar Vizquel jumped on the first pitch he saw after four pickoff attempts on Pierre and a pitchout, riding the ball deep to right but not out of the reach of right fielder J.D. Drew.
I was frustrated that I didnt get a chance to steal during Omars at-bat, Pierre said. Richardson showed me his move, and once I got second, I knew I could be aggressive right away and get third.
Pinch-hitter Mark Teahen fiddled as Pierre burned, walking on four pitches and knocking Richardson off the mound in favor of Matt Fox.
Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek knows, one little mistake with me on third and the game is over, Pierre said. He made two great blocks as it was, both of them saved the game. After two in the dirt in the first three pitches, they knew they couldnt throw a pitch with too much bite.
The result was Fox throwing his flattest pitch of the at-bat with the count at 2-2, a slider that slid right into Viciedos bat. The rookies liner snuck past a diving Daniel Nava, unleashing a wild celebration on the field.
Dont give me an assist, Pierre said, smiling. Give all the credit to Viciedo.
Chris Sale got the win, with two innings of scoreless, two-hit, three-K effort in relief of White Sox starter Edwin Jackson.
You always want to come out and get a win like that, said Jackson, who spread seven hits and three earned runs over seven innings. That was a good, old-fashioned battle. Thats what makes the win exciting.
Were always excited to win, especially in a walk-off, Pierre said. Were professionals, so we have an obligation to play hard, but thats what were about. Were still fighting, and thats the most important thing.
The Red Sox struck early, with Jed Lowrie opening the scoring in the second with an RBI double that plated Adrian Beltre. In the next frame, Drew clouted an opposite-field home run, and one out later, Beltre belted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Victor Martinez.
Faced with a 3-0 deficit, the Chisox came back, courtesy first of a predictable round-tripper from Carlos Quentin, a two-run clout off Red Sox starter John Lackey. Now, predictable may seem a displaced modifier for a home run, but consider that Q now sits at 8-for-13 with four homers in his career off the righty after a 1-for-2 performance against him on Tuesday.
David Ortiz pushed the Carmines lead back to two runs with a solo clout in the sixth, and the White Sox took back that run when Brent Morel singled in Quentin (on third after a hard single to third off Lackey, what new). But with runners on first and second with one out, Pierre barely beat out his double-play grounder and Vizquel tapped out to third, extinguishing the threat.
But in the very next frame, Manny Ramirez tapped out an interminable number of fouls before drawing a walk, earning praise afterward for a great at-bat from Guillen, who had called Ramirez awesome before the game.
Brent Lillibridge pinch-ran and stole second base, scoring the tying run on Paul Konerkos double into the right-field corner.
That was the biggest hit of the night, Guillen said.
But after A.J. Pierzynski advanced Lillibridge to third on a grounder to second, Quentin popped out (O Lackey, John Lackey, wherefore art thou?). Alexei Ramirez walked, and Andruw Jones stepped up on his bobblehead night and looked at a called third strike, ending the threat.
Lackey battled hard enough for a win, gutting out six innings and stifling the White Sox on two runs off three hits. For a couple of innings, he was in a position to get it.
We did a great job vs. Lackey, Guillen said. We made him throw what, 100 pitches in five innings actually 98?
Jackson had a similar effort, pitching efficiently and striking out six against just one walk.
Another great outing for him, Guillen said.
Sales second career win was no cherry-pick, as he threw 33 pitches and whiffed three over two innings. All three of Sales Ks were on swinging strikes, first on an 82 mph slider erasing Darnell McDonald and last on an 85 mph slider to Nava to end the ninth. In between was a phenomenal, ninth-inning punchout of the veteran Varitek, who worked the count to 3-0 before Sale annihilated him with four straight, choice-cut fastballs, topping out at 97.
Sale once again did a tremendous job, Guillen said. Hes unbelievable.
On a night where young stars like Sale and Viciedo stole the spotlight from the veterans, the senior Chisox were proud to see the future playing out a little early. Jackson cited the value of the young White Sox getting a taste of pressure situations, while Pierre made specific mention of Viciedos work ethic before games and how satisfying it was to see that hard work translate into game success.
But it was the manager who was most proud of his charges, whether young or old. A week ago, he met with his club in Oakland to praise it for the run it made at the playoffs this season and to warn his charges against letting up at the finish line. Tuesday night, again, those players supported their skipper.
Im very lucky to have guys who will keep fighting, Guillen said. Theyre not going to give up. Theyre not going to give in. And when I have stood up and supported them, theyve backed me up.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.