Friday, April 22, 2011
Posted: 8:54 p.m. Updated: 10:13 p.m.
By Brett BallantiniCSNChicago.com
DETROIT A Good Friday for the Chicago White Sox? Nope.
Blame it on a misty, murky brew falling from the Detroit skies.
Blame it on Justin Verlander, whos been roughed up by the White Sox in his career but was a wicked little critta Friday night in mowing down the Hose.
Blame it on overzealous celebration after snapping a seven-game losing streak with a laugher in Tampa Thursday night.
About the only thing you cant blame Fridays flaccid, 9-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on is Carlos Quentin, whose Triple Crown push hasnt slipped off its stride for a second this season.
Quentin hit two mammoth solo shotssome 800 feet of round-tripper goodness into the teeth of a Siberian Express wind, exemplifying his disdain for all pitchers, opponents, and acts of foul weather. The titanic blasts pushed Qs slugging percentage for the season to an outrageous .707.
But that was the beginning and end of the highlights for the White Sox, who spent much of the game fielding an uneasy-9 who appeared as if they couldnt get out of the drizzly chill fast enough.
To his credit, manager Ozzie Guillen saw fight in his team, right from leadoff hitter Juan Pierres initial, nine-pitch at-bat. Of course, that at-bat ended in a strikeout (the first of a rare daily double for the speedster).
Were fighting, man, were fighting, Guillen said. Everyone in the lineup went out and got after Verlander in every at-bat. Theyre fighting with every pitch, but the guy they were fighting against was pretty good.
Guillen the soother has yet to transform into Guillen the soothsayer with his band of brothers that has fairly well wheezed along ever since the second of April. While the jefe might not see it, primary among the underachievers was ineffective Chisox starter Mark Buehrle, who started sharp but ended flatulent. The lefty lasted just 5 23 innings and surrendered six earned runs on eight hits.
The first four innings I felt like I could throw a perfect game or no-hitter, location-wise. Ill take that every start. They were hitting good pitches, Buehrle said. In the fifth and sixth I fell behind in the count. Its a frustrating game when stuff like that happens The way the ball carried surprised me, big time.
Carry or no, Buehrle has been the worst of the White Sox starters this season, with four subpar efforts unable to offset a gem vs. the Oakland As spun some 11 days ago. His average game score is just 43.6, significantly below a quality start level (pitchers begin the game with a game score of 50, so the White Sox have been worse off with Buehrle than without him).
Contrast that with Verlander, who is slowly turning around his fortunes vs. Chicago (he entered the game with a 4.55 career ERA against the White Sox).
Verlander did a good job, Paul Konerko said. He got some runs early, and does what he does: Run with it. He gave up a couple homers in the seventh, but thats what you do when youre doing your job and have a big leadyou come at people, you dont walk people. Hes a handful. Hes got four above-average pitches and above-average command on top of it. Hes as good as it gets. He got some runs to work with and didnt look back.
The Bengals ace threw 117 pitches through seven innings, with eight Ks (including his 1,000th career punch out, after which he stared down his victim, A.J. Pierzynski) against zero walks. Verlander was touched for three earned runs, but he allowed them wisely with three solo shots (Qs two and one from Konerko).
The back-to-back jacks were the first such clouts of the season for Chicago. The multi-homer effort was the 11th of Quentins career. Q boats a bloaty 1.107 OPS, with 70 percent of the right fielders hits so far this season falling for extra bases.
But the story of the game was Detroits ace sucking the life out the Pale Hose.
You put that combination of weather and Verlander, its pretty tough, Guillen said. Verlander continues to throw the ball really well. You don't see too many guys in this league pounding 97, 98, 99 mph and his changeup is 84. Hes a very tough guy to face.
Break on through
Konerko is sensitive to fan panic and the "All-In" pressure lumped on his club back in December. But respond to such pressures? Thats a different story.
Never, because a sense of urgency makes you play worse, he said. Youre playing with urgency, that means tension and tension will never lead to good things. So of course we want to play better and have better results, but you just have to know youre going about it right.
"In baseball, everyone has their own way go playing the game and going about it. Everyone has a different temperament. You have to know yourself. If youre going about it the right way, then keep doing itit will happen or it wont happen but at least you know youre doing it the right way. But playing with urgency and that kind of stuff, I just laugh at it. You go out with a purpose and play hard, playing with urgency means you care what other people think. And you just cant do that as a player.
While acknowledging his part in the slow start, veteran hurler Buehrle agrees.
We have plenty of time: 20 games in is way too early to be worrying, he said. We have faced quality pitching and we havent hit too good and pitched very well at certain times. Everything clicked those first couple of games, but when score 14 its hard to lose.
Paul Konerko shakes hands with Adam Dunn after hitting his fifth home run of the season Friday, one he admits came as a surprise. Meanwhile, the White Sox captain says he isn't feeling a sense of urgency despite the White Sox recent struggles. (AP)
Were fine. If we get to the All-Star break and are struggling, I might think about worrying.
Konerkos seventh-inning clout wasnt just the 370th of his career, pushing him past Ralph Kiner and into a tie with Gil Hodges for 68th all-time. It was one of the strangest dingers of the veterans career.
The home run was surprising, Konerko reflected. I certainly wasnt watching. I knew it would be out of play, over the fence and foul, most likely. When you hit a ball thats foul and has a hook on it, it never comes back. But the wind pushed it back. Its definitely luck, and I got some on that one.
Konerko stood at the plate and didnt move until his shot clanged halfway up the foul pole in left. Natch, the mere attention paid to his who-me homer drew out the sensitive side of the slugger.
It certainly wasnt me trying to watch a home run and show off, Konerko said. I thought it was a foul ball, and I hope no one took offense to it.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.