Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 5:55 p.m. Updated: 8:28 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO The third time was the charm for Phil Humber.
The 28-year-old righty threw the game of his life in the White Sox's 4-2 win Saturday afternoon, turning his third career start (and first for the White Sox) into a sort of masterpiece alleviating the pressing need for Jake Peavy to rush back into the Chicago rotation.
We had a good game plan going in, and A. J. took care of me behind the plate, Humber said. I made pitches when I had to. Last night was a tough loss, and everybody came to play today.
He was great, catcher A.J. Pierzynski returned. He was the story of the gamethe way he threw the ball, especially the way last nights game ended. To come out and shut them down the way he did, it was awesome.
WATCH: Pierzynski laughs off Lopez altercation
The most important person to impressWhite Sox manager Ozzie Guillencertainly was.
Great, wow, said the jefe of his fifth starters effort. He got an opportunity to win the game, he pitched very well, he got in trouble in one inning maybe, but he threw the ball very, very good, threw strikes. He gave us more than what we thought he was going to give us. It was outstanding today.
And thats just the impact Humber had hoped to have.
Hopefully it wasnt a surprise, he said. They got me on the team because they wanted me on the team, they didnt just throw me out there because they didnt have anybody else. They believe in me, and that gives me a lot of confidence as a player.
You always want to at least meet the expectations, if not exceed them. I dont know what they were, but I wanted to go out there and give the team a chance to win, and thankfully I was able to do that.
The outcome was in doubt for a full nine innings, however, as the Pale Hose were opposed by Wade Davis, who authored a best-seller of his own, holding the high-octane Chisox to two runs on five hits in six innings of work.
They are a good team, Pierzynski said. You can say what you want, but Wade Davis has always pitched very well against us. Hes tough. He changes speeds very well. He mixes up his pitches very well. Hes a good pitcherthey signed him to a long-term deal because hes good.
Davis was rescued from potential catastrophe in the fourth, when Juan Pierre hit a two-out, bases-loaded, screaming line drive into the right-field corner that Sam Fuld laid out to snag and retire the side. Pierre was inches away from a potential game-breaking, inside-the-park grand slam.
WATCH: Pierre still can't believe the catch
Guillen laughed off the notion that Pierre was thatclose to a granny, with a loud laugh.
Maybe five or six years ago, it was an inside-the-parker, but I dont know about now, Guillen said. I dont remember seeing any catch better than that. The situation, where he was playing, this kid went a long way. If that ball landed, it would be a different ballgame. Its just a helluva play.
It was an incredible catch, and I tip my hat to him that he didnt kill himself on the fence and he got there and made the play, Pierzynski said. It was an amazing play.
Fulds belly flop followed Brent Morels single, a rather hilarious Rhode Island Leaguer pop that floated tantalizingly beyond Davis grasp for a bases-loaded single.
Thank God Brent Morel hit that ball a foot too far, where Davis he couldnt reach it, Pierzynski said.
In the seventh, Chicago finally drove Davis from the box and immediately doubled its lead, as Pierzynski drove a deep double to right that Fuld failed to handle. The two-run knock would ultimately prove to be the game winner for the South Siders.
Sergio Santos, Fireman of the First Week for the Sox, came on to anesthetize the Rays with a scoreless eighth, giving way to fellow young gun Chris Sale, who earned the save after giving up a home run to Felipe Lopez in the ninth.
Guillen was thrilled at how his team bounced back after expressing before the game that hed be studying how much fight his troops had in them.
Good teams are supposed to not carry what happened the night before to the next day, whether you win or lose, he said. We brought a lot of energy. We knew it would be a challenge to see how we could bounce back from the game last night and I was very satisfied with what I saw.
Did U.S. Cellular Field witness MLB's best defensive play for the second straight season? Sam Fuld's full-speed running dive to make this catch robbed Juan Pierre of at least a triple and three RBIs. (AP)
Fulds amazing catch in the fourth was the defensive story of the game.
Somebody said that guy is really good in the outfield, and hes made some nice plays against us these three games, but that catch he made off of Pierre is one of the best catches Ive ever seen, Pierzynski said. Honestly, he ran like 50 yards to get to that ball.
While Guillen was clear not to spark a closer controversy, he did edge a bit back toward a closer-by-committee situation, judging by his postgame remarks.
Thornton was beat up todayhe threw a lot of pitches yesterday, Guillen said. But this is what youre going to see: Im going to go with my gut feeling. Obviously, Thornton is going to get the most opportunities, but Im the manager of this ballclub and Im going to put the best guys out there, the ones I think are going to do the job.
"The way Santos is throwing, Sale is throwing, if Thornton needs a break well give it to him. Matt threw like 30 pitches FridayI know he couldnt pitch today.
Guillen had a brief conference in the clubhouse with Sale after the game, and also cited Santos as a closer in a more specific way than he has yet this season.
Whenever your name's called, you have to go out there and do your job, and do it the best you can, Sale said of his save opportunity. It just so happened today I was throwing in the ninth. You go out there with the same mindset: Get three outs, get this game wrapped up, and go home with the win.
At the end of the day its a goal of mine to be closer, but until they name somebody Im going to be in that same role whether its the sixth, seventh, or eighth, Santos said. When my names called, Im gonna give the same effort as if Im closing the game.
Santos has had an unbelievable run through 2011 so far, unscored upon in spring training and now stretching his scoreless streak to four regular season games as well.
Everythings starting to come together a little bit. Everything is working in my favor, he said. If I miss a spot, they hit it to somebody. Im making the pitches I need to with two strikes, putting guys away. Im in a good rhythm right now and I just want to ride it out for as long as I can.
Santos is very aggressivedont be surprised if you see Santos in the ninth, Guillen said. All the people out there, they see closerthats a title. I dont know who gets that title. Im going to go by my gutwhat I feel, what my pitching coach feels, what I feel is best for the ballclub. Santos threw the ball very well.
Weve done it before. In 2005, I had three closers. In 2007, I had seven closersnobody could close. But I gotta go about what is best for the ballclub, its not about individual numbers and titles.
In the end, no one has replaced Thornton as the teams stopper.
"As far as were concerned, Thornton is still our closer, and were going to fill in in front of him, Santos said.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.