Clutch White Sox remain hot, win 7th straight

Clutch White Sox remain hot, win 7th straight
September 6, 2010, 8:07 pm
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Monday, Sept. 6, 2010
Updated 7:01 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT Achievement after achievement got trumped in a memorable Labor Day game for the White Sox, but all were subjugated to the most important mark of this Labor Day, Chicagos 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

Obviously, Im not thinking about records now or how many hits or how many games, said Omar Vizquel, who set the all-time record for most games played among players born outside of the United States with his 2,832nd game. Everyone here is focused to do one job, and thats trying to finish strong. Thats what Im trying to do.

I threw the ball well, said rookie Chris Sale, who earned his first career major-league win with 2 23 innings of hitless relief. Im just trying to do my best every time I get in the game and help the team win.

It was A.J. Pierzynski (2-for-5 on the day with three RBI, and batting .411 during his 13-game hitting streak) with an opposite-field looper that scored pinch runner Alejandro de Aza with the winning run, icing the seventh straight win for the White Sox, now a perfect 7-0 on their road trip.

When A.J. swings at strikes, A.J. can be dangerous, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. A.J. is the type of guy that was wasting a lot of at-bats this year. Hes been getting anxious, but when A.J. gets discipline at the plate, hes a guy I count on putting the ball in play, and he can do a lot of things with his bat.

No one is panicking, Pierzynski said. Were not giving away our at-bats. Were not swinging at bad pitches. Were just going in there saying, Hey, Im going to fight and see what happens. Its been working out.

The Chisox were sans their hottest hitter, first baseman Paul Konerko, who sat out with a balky back. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez and center fielder Alex Rios also were sidelined until the late innings, ceding starts to Mark Kotsay (first), Vizquel (short) and Andruw Jones (center).

We had Manny Ramirez in the lineup and we didnt have Rios, Alexei Ramirez and Konerko, and the lineup still looked good, Guillen said. Our depth is one thing thats a plus to have.

The Detroit damage was done almost exclusively by left fielder Don Kelly, who was a defensive dervish while also tapping an RBI single in the first inning and belting a two-run homer in the fourth that appeared for a while to be the game-winner.

Thats because the two potential aces dealt for one another this past winterEdwin Jackson was traded by Detroit for the Diamondbacks Max Scherzer, and was swapped by Arizona to Chicago at this years trade deadlinebasically mirrored one anothers effective pitching in the game.

Kellys RBI single came after Detroit led off the game with three straight hits and four in the first five batters facing Jackson. Those first-inning RBI, from Johnny Damon and Kelly, were the first earned runs allowed by Jackson in the first five innings in his first six starts with the White Sox.

The White Sox came right back at Detroit in the second, loading the bases on a blooper from Jones, which led to a game-tying, two-run base knock from Pierzynski. In the fourth, Juan Pierre pushed the Chisox ahead 3-2 with a two-out base tap.

In the end, both hurlers earned a no-decision for their labors. Jackson lost his streak of three straight games of double-figure strikeouts, exiting with six after overcoming early struggles to toss 7 13 innings of nine-hit, four-run, one-walk ball.

Scherzer busted out an almost identical line to Jackson, dealing for 7 13 innings and surrendering nine hits, four earned runs and two walks against six strikeouts. The burly Bengal was in line for the win until the eighth, when Alexei Ramirez pinch-hit for Kotsay and drove in pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge with the tying run, off wilding Tigs reliever Rick Perry.

I know the Tigers kid that was going to start Scherzer was going to throw the ball good. Hes got a good arm, Guillen said. Jackson was struggling early; it seemed every ball they hit, they hit hard. After that, he turned it around and settled down very well.

It was just one of those games, one of those days where you just go out and tell yourself youre going to have to battle, keep the game close and give our team a chance to win, Jackson said. It was one of those games you dont have your best stuff, but you dont want to show it. You have to go out and still have the same mindframe as if you did have good stuff.

A potentially tragic turn of events for the White Sox was averted in the eighth inning. With one on and two out, Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge clocked a long drive down the left-field line off Sale, initially ruled a home run by third-base umpire Tony Randazzo. The call was met with howls of protest from the White Sox and even a groan of honest disappointment for the 32,924 partisan Motown fans. The call was reviewedit was the second time Inge had hit a phantom homer this season vs. the White Soxand was overturned.

It was foul, Sale said. At first off the bat, I was like, Oh, boy, this is bad. Then, I saw where it went foul. Pierzynski was back there and was asking if it was fair or foul, and he said it was way foul. The home plate umpire didnt make a call. They circled around, and I said I thought it was foul. They went back and reviewed it and the reversal was big. Thank God it didnt catch fair.

Apparently all of us knew it was foul except for Randazzo, Pierzynski said. Replay made the right call. Brandon knew it was fouleveryone pretty much knew it was foul. Thats why they have instant replay, and it worked out because they got it right.

That correct call clicked in the same way the White Sox have of late, as they are beginning to look like the club that reeled of the incendiary streak (36-17 in June and July) that pulled them back into the AL Central race in the first place and are now a season-high 17 games over .500 at 77-60.

Were just finding ways to win games, Pierzynski said. Were battling; were not giving at-bats away. Nobodys panicking. Everyones sticking with their plan. It was a great win. It was a good ballgame, both teams played really hard and both teams battled. It was a good win.

Great game, man, great game. Great game to watch, Guillen said. Im a baseball fan, and that was a lot of action there, a lot of movement, a lot of decisions to make. A lot of good things happened today.

But on today of all days, the final state of the White Sox is delivered by a fella whos seen just about as many baseball games as (and played in more) than Guillen, the soft-spoken Vizquel.

We are in a pennant race right now, and this is the last three weeks of the season, Vizquel said. We have to give it all we can right now. And a couple weeks ago we went into a stretch where we lost a couple games in the last inning and we couldnt come back. Its a great sign that everyone is putting forth their best effort.

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