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.

Preview: Quintana takes the hill as White Sox face Twins on CSN

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Preview: Quintana takes the hill as White Sox face Twins on CSN

The White Sox take on the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana vs. Ervin Santana

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

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

White Sox Top Prospects: Alex Call thriving at the plate

White Sox Top Prospects: Alex Call thriving at the plate

Alex Call is picking up right where he left off from college.

The White Sox 2016 third round pick has continued to swing the bat extremely well in the first couple months of his professional career.

In three seasons at Ball State, Call had 19 homers and 119 RBI, while batting .351/.425./.530. 

In two levels with the White Sox, Call is hitting .315/.407/.452 with six homers and 31 RBI.

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The 21-year-old played 27 games with Rookie Affiliate Great Falls before getting promoted to Class-A Kannapolis.

In 41 games with Kannapolis, Call's .319 batting average ranks second on the team and his .460 slugging percentage leads the Intimidators.

Alex Avila gets best of former teammate Justin Verlander, homers in White Sox loss

Alex Avila gets best of former teammate Justin Verlander, homers in White Sox loss

DETROIT -- Things might be a little awkward between Alex Avila and Justin Verlander.

The two former teammates faced off on Wednesday afternoon for only the second time ever and Avila didn’t treat the Tigers’ ace too kindly.

Avila, who caught Verlander for six seasons, ripped a 435-foot solo homer to dead center in the fourth inning, but the White Sox still lost to the Detroit Tigers 3-2.

Avila is now 2-for-5 with a walk in two games against Verlander. They also faced each other on June 5.

“I know I’m going to be hearing about it,” Verlander told Detroit reporters. “I think I’m going to ask him back for one of the watches I’ve gifted him. It’s only fair, I think.”

Avila and Verlander have shared a ton of memories over the years.

Avila was Verlander’s primary catcher from 2010-2015. He caught him 116 times, including in 33 of 34 starts when Verlander won his only Cy Young Award and was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. Verlander had a 3.10 ERA with Avila behind the plate, including a 2.35 in 2011.

Avila hit against Verlander three times on Wednesday, striking out twice. He thought his old teammate looked extremely sharp as Verlander held the White Sox to two runs and three hits in seven innings. Verlander struck out nine.

“He has pitched great all year, really exposing hitters’ weaknesses with that mid-90s fastball, staying at the top of the zone with that,” Avila said. “His slider-cutter worked well for him. He’s pitching great. It’s tough to get runs off him.”

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Avila was excited to not only face Verlander, but also to catch Chris Sale. He said White Sox manager Robin Ventura told him he’d catch Wednesday’s game a few days earlier and he anticipated the game.

Verlander said he thinks the catcher has the advantage in these types of meetings.

“Alex having caught me a lot, cheated a little bit to that first pitch heater in, and that’s fine,” Verlander said. “A lot of guys do that and I just need to execute it a little better.

“It’s like he’s faced 1,000 times, so you can’t get upset because it’s an ex-teammate.”

Avila said it “felt great” to homer off Verlander, but he hadn’t yet talked to him or texted.

“I’m sure we’ll talk about it at some point,” Avila said.

Verlander figures this won’t be the only time the two square off. If Avila wants to keep hitting homers, he might think about leaving personal items at home.

“I think I’ve gave him two or three (watches),” Verlander said. “I’ll start with the least expensive one and work my way up because we face each other a lot.”