White Sox blast Royals to end losing streak

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White Sox blast Royals to end losing streak

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011Posted: 4:20 p.m. Updated: 5:28 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
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WATCH: Pierzynski happy to get a winWATCH: Danks reviews startREAD: Seven things we've learned about the White Sox

KANSAS CITY In a game witnessed by 325 canines for Kauffman Stadiums Bark at the K promotion, both of Sundays starters were doggedly determined to reject good fortune.

The worm turned on the Godfather, Ozzie Guillen, measuring words carefully to Kansas City starter Bruce Chen.

I told Bruce Chen Were going to kick your butt today, the Godfather chuckled. I did. Ask him.

However Ozzie said, Chen listened, as the Chicago White Sox surprisingly broke through and touched Cy for four runs and nine hits over 5 13 innings.

Unfortunately on the flip side, struggling Chisox starter John Danks did all he could to return the bounty right back to the Royals, slapped with 10 hits and four runs (three earned) over six-plus innings. But Danks managed to earn the win without a single strikeout (or walk) as the White Sox scored six late runs to secure the 10-5 victory and salvage a win in Sundays four-game series finale.

Early on he was pretty good, catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. He made some good pitches when he had to, Brent Morel threw a guy out at the plate. He wasnt perfect or good as he can be, but he made pitches when he had to and thats what good guys do.

He came through it, Guillen said. He lost it for a couple of innings. He was good, and all of a sudden he lost it and was throwing the all over the place. But he gave us the opportunity to win and keep the team out there.

As an indication of just how sluggish his stuff has gotten, Danks has just two strikeouts over his last two starts (11 innings). Although Danks did earn his seventh win of the season, September has been forgettable for the ace lefty: A 9.14 ERA, 1.98 WHIP and 28 game score over four starts.

I have no idea, Danks said with regard to his stuff in September. My last few, today included, I dont feel Ive had great stuff, I guess. Its part of the learning process, to go out there and throw strikes and compete the best you can without your best stuff. Today it worked out, and in my last few, it hasnt.

Pierzynski didnt get to wreak revenge against Chen for the cagey lefty having broken the catchers wrist with a pitch on August 12, sending Pierzynski to the DL for the first time, although he just missed a deep triple to right-center off him and later clocked a towering home run to right to provide Chicago an insurance run.

The backstop went back-to-back behind Paul Konerko, who clocked his 30th home run of the season and now has five campaigns where he has tapped out at least 30 dingers and driven in 100 runs, second in team history to Frank Thomas.

Its one of those things where theres a balance of thats your job to drive in runs and drive the ball, Konerko said. The last couple of years Im trying to switch up goals, and what is good for me is showing up for 150-plus games. If I make that goal, the byproduct will be the numbers.

A.J. had a great night and Im very excited about PK, Guillen said. He may be the only bright thing we have here this year, 30 home runs, 100-plus RBI, with really no protection in the order. Im very happy for him. I was pulling for that home run more than anything else. A lot of people think Well, 30 home runs, 100 RBI, youre still losing, but it means a lot to him and it means a lot to me seeing one of my players have success and have a great year.

Slumping slugger Adam Dunn broke out, to a degree, vs. Chen, who entered the game 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA vs. the White Sox this season. The DH had a double down the right-field line in the fourth and lined a single off of Chen in the sixth, for a 2-for-5 day. Dunn had his first extra-base hit vs. a lefthander this season and first since August 6, 2010. The RBI on the double was Dunns first since Aug. 8.

As the Royals crept within 6-4 with a run in the seventh, Chicago bit right back with a four-run rally that started with none on and two outs. The key blow was Pierzynskis second homer of the game, a three-run shot off the right field foul pole. It was A.J.s first multihomer game of the year, fourth of his career, and first since July 9, 2010 against the Royals.

The win prevented a season-high eight-game losing streak for the White Sox.

It feels good, especially with the off-day, Pierzynski said of the win. It seems like weve been grinding. Going into the off-day with a good feeling, hopefully we play well the first two games of the doubleheader there on Tuesday. Its nice to win on a travel day, and its nice to win on a football day so we can relax and watch football.

Were all competitive we have pride, Danks said. We dont have many games left, but were going to try to win all of them. Theres nothing else to do but save face and have a decent taste in our mouths going into the offseason. Were not out here going through the motions. Were trying to win more 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.”