White Sox walking right out of contention

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White Sox walking right out of contention

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 9:56 p.m. Updated: 11:29 p.m.

By BrettBallantini
CSNChicago.com White SoxInsiderFollow@CSNChi_Beatnik
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MINNEAPOLIS The White Sox season long inability to muster up a knockout punch was manifest in two plays that low lighted Chicagos sloppy, 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins in the series finale on Wednesday night.

Both gaffes were borne of walks. The first came when Pale Hose starter John Danks issued a free pass to Drew Butera, of the .298 on-base and .435 OPS Buteras. That free pass set a four-run third inning in motion.

The walk to Butera I dont say Butera is a bad hitter, but hes only hitting .164, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. When you walk the guy batting ninth, youre looking at trouble. Thats what Danks did. He hit Joe Mauer and got in trouble in that inning, but thats the only bad inning he had. After that he battled back. You take that inning away, its a pretty good game. Those two walks killed him. That inning killed him, with a walk and a hit batter. That started a big problem.

Obviously, you dont want to walk Butera there but I made some good pitches to him, too, Danks said. Him and Jason Repko especially, it seems like they had tough at-bats, couldnt put them away. But you see enough pitches and foul off enough good pitches, eventually youre going to work the count back in your favor, and they did.

The second gaffe came on a pickoff attempt of Luke HughesDankss only other walk of the gamewhich turned into a clown car of all clown-car plays, Paul Konerko throwing well wide of Alexei Ramirez covering second to tag Hughes out, then the soft-tossing arms of Juan Pierre in left and Omar Vizquel as the cutoff man allowing Hughes to come all the way around to score with ease.

Its been a sh---y year, no doubt, Danks said of falling to 6-11 and seeing his ERA climb back over four at 4.09. I dont know how many starts I have left, but Ill be ready to throw in those games. All in all, its been a crappy year. Im looking forward to next year, starting clean. I dont want to sound like I am giving up on the yearIm not. But Im definitely looking forward to starting with a clean slate.

Im not feeling sorry for myself; I put myself in this position. But it seems like this year, whenever anything bad can happen, it has. Baseball: You have to be tough. And this year I learned a lot, learned I can take anything and be ready for next year.

On top of the mound struggles came a return to offensive inefficiency. In the first three games of the series the White Sox stranded just seven runners total, while on Wednesday they left 13.

We played typical White Sox baseballI dont think we lost, I just think we gave this game away, Guillen said. There is no doubt in my mind we gave it away. We had a lot of chances. We didnt get the hitsIm not talking about big hits, we cant even get a hit. When you cant do that, thats the type of game youre going to have.

While A.J. Pierzynski had a rough night in the clutch in stranding eight runners and going 1-for-5, it was Alex Rios who embodied the clubs frustration with runners in scoring position by looking at a called third strike from Glen Perkins with Ramirez on third and breaking his bat over his thigh afterward.

Lets say Im sad about RISP woes because I dont want to say what I really want to say, said Guillen, as all nearby coffee makers and office chairs appeared intact and unscathed. Yeah, Im not going to say this gamesince spring training weve been not good at all with men at third base and less than two outs. Weve had a lot of problems all year long with it, and today was another example.

Yes, the White Sox fought back twice, clawing within 4-3 and 5-4, but in the end, the White Sox were unable to secure their first-ever four-game sweep of the Twins in Minnesota and fell nine games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers. What promised just a week ago to be a crucial series at home vs. the Cleveland Indians now has been reduced to a four-game battle to see who can get a foothold on second place (the 71-70 White Sox are a half-game ahead of the Wahoos entering Thursdays action).

A bright spot

After 167 career games in the minor leagues, Dylan Axelrod made his major league debut in relief of Danks and threw two scoreless innings, striking out two with two walks and a hit. In the seventh inning, he came on and retired his first batter, Butera, when Ramirez made an outstanding diving play on a short pop to center, and his last on a strikeout that froze Repko to end the eighth.

It was just great getting out there for the first time and getting my feet wet, Axelrod said. I had a great time.

The hurler, who Baseball America said had the best control in the White Sox organization entering the 2011 season, fought a bit with nerves as well.

The first inning, I was a little juiced up and excited, he said. The second inning I felt good, normal It was fun getting that first strikeout. The first out, Alexei made a great play on. And B-Mo making a diving play to end the inning, just all a lot of highlights for me.

Jake Peavy, whose time with the San Diego Padres overlapped that of Axelrod and is represented by the young hurlers uncle, was thrilled to see the righthander fly through his debut. And Axelrod impressed the man who matters mosthis manager.

I was very surprised, Guillen said of Axelrods debut. He threw strikes. If you throw strikes you can pitch for me, I dont care if you get lit up. You throw strikes and youre around the plate and make people make contact, thats a good thing. Its a great chance for him. Coming all the way from where he came from to be in the big leagues is a nice thing to see, and he had a good game today.

Axelrod, who credited bullpen coach Juan Nieves for advice in treating the game as a normal one, was please to know that he earned kudos from his feisty skipper.

Thats good to hear, the hurler said if Ozzies praise. Thats what Ive always done, and plan to continue that in the majors.

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

White Sox: Tim Anderson adjusting to 'grind' of first MLB season

White Sox: Tim Anderson adjusting to 'grind' of first MLB season

CLEVELAND -- He’s played far more than ever before this season, so it’s no surprise that Tim Anderson has started to feel a little more tired than normal.

This is exactly what baseball players mean when they mention the “grind,” that time of the season when the body aches more and each day off is important. It’s not something players can be prepared for — they learn how to handle it as they experience it for the first time. And that’s just what the White Sox shortstop is figuring out — how to manage himself in uncharted territory. Between Triple-A Charlotte and the majors, Anderson has accumulated 646 plate appearances, which is 96 more than he had in 2015. The White Sox have nine more games remaining, including Saturday night’s contest at the Cleveland Indians, which means Anderson could easily reach 680 plate appearances.

“Just working on locking in and staying focused and keeping myself healthy and doing what I’m supposed to do to stay healthy,” Anderson said. “It has been a little tough some times. My body is tired going through this extra month, I’m not really used to it. I’m holding up pretty well and my body is holding up pretty good.”

Anderson appeared to benefit from a day off Thursday when he returned to action on Friday. The team’s top position prospect since Gordon Beckham, Anderson said he spent Thursday hanging out and relaxing at the area home of his cousin, Cleveland Browns fullback Malcolm Johnson.

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He responded to only his third day off all month with two hits, including a first-inning triple on Friday. It was the 30th multi-hit game of Anderson’s career, but only the fifth in September. Anderson, who has a .710 OPS this season, has a .647 September OPS.

“You take advantage of (the time off),” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s played hard. Coming up and realizing that if you are playing everyday, everybody tries to take advantage of it. When you are in your first year, you realize the grind you are going through and you are trying to find a way to be fresh and things like that. You rest and that’s the biggest thing for a day off.”

As much as he’s happy to see the finish line, Anderson wouldn’t mind if the White Sox were gearing up for a postseason run. Though he’s tired, Anderson is still hungry. He said he has no major changes planned in his offseason physical preparation and thinks this experience will be extremely valuable when he goes through it again next September.

“Basically it’s just the first time as a trial,” Anderson said. “See how it is and see how my body reacts and I know what to do next year at this time.

“It’s good. You also want to play more. Just trying to finish strong and end on a good note.”

Preview: Quintana, White Sox look to get back on track vs. Indians tonight on CSN

Preview: Quintana, White Sox look to get back on track vs. Indians tonight on CSN

Jose Quintana takes the hill as the White Sox continue their series against the Cleveland Indians tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (12-11, 3.26 ERA) vs. Cody Anderson (2-4, 6.24 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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