Late-inning small ball lifts White Sox

Late-inning small ball lifts White Sox
July 29, 2010, 3:06 am
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Updated 11:44 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The 2009 Chicago White Sox may have folded under a 3-0 first-inning deficit, or a 5-1 second frame setback.

Not the 2010 edition, however; one that manager Ozzie Guillen molded in his name and steadfastly defends in the face of trade rumors stretching coast-to-coast.

The White Sox took seven innings, but they managed to rally all the way back to win 6-5 over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night.

That was a big game for us today, Guillen said. We made a huge comeback right away, twice. The offense did a lot of great things, as a team. We played very, very, very well today.

The seventh stanza, which provided the game-winning tick, was Ozzieball to a T. Leadoff hitter Juan Pierre worked a leadoff walk off of Seattle reliever Jamey Wright, stealing second to allow Alexei Ramirez to sacrifice him to third. Alex Rios followed with a run-scoring single, and just like that, the White Sox led for good.

Without a doubt, that was a big, big victory, left fielder Juan Pierre said. The way our lineup is set up, the little things become important: a bunt, a sacrifice fly.

Of course, U.S. Cellular Field was playing summer-small on this night, so naturally four of the Chisoxs first five runs came courtesy of the longball: a two-run shot by Gordon Beckham in the second and solo taps from Ramirez and Paul Konerko in the fifth.

The whole game I felt like wed come back and win, second baseman Gordon Beckham said. Weve got the ability to play small, and the ability to hit the ball out of the park. Thats a nice combination.

Early on, these were games we didnt win, said rookie reliever Sergio Santos, who recorded two Ks. Thats a cool part of the whole turnaround.

While the starting rotation has done more than its share in rallying the White Sox into first place25-9 with a 2.69 ERA and 35 quality starts in the last 44 gameson this night, it was all Mark Buehrle could do to keep his head above water.

You never want to go less than six or seven innings, but we won the game, thats what mattered, said Buehrle, who surrendered nine hits and five runs in five innings. The offense picked me up. If you get in too big a hole its hard to battle back.

Buehrle was fighting, Guillen said. Every game on the field, all my players fight hard; maybe they like me, or theyre proud. Buehrle battled, and the bullpen took care of the rest.

Indeed it was a lights-out quartetSantos, Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenkswho were the heroes, with four innings of scoreless pitching, allowing just two hits and striking out five.

The first three relievers extended scoreless streaks with their efforts: Santos has gone 10 games without surrendering an earned run, Thornton 17 straight scoreless appearances and Putz pitched a perfect eighth to extend his club-record streak of scoreless games to 27.

Perhaps most importantly, Jenks shook off his recent scuffles by striking out the side in the ninth for his 21st save. He hit 99 on the gun to strike out Russell Branyan for the second out.

All I know is if have to keep continuing to prove myself, Jenks said. I have to attack hitters, attack the zone and stay with the game plan.

You blow two games, thats going to happen, Beckham said. Jenks came back tonight and got it done. Thats what we need from him.

Guillen, who expressed surprise that there was any buzz over Jenks being displaced has his closer, praised the bullpen as well as his entire roster with his final, cheeky comment of the night.

Youre a good manager when the players execute well, he said.

Couple that with his first comment of the dayI should be happy, Im in first place. I should be the happiest man in baseballand couple it with his last, and at this point, two things are clear: The White Sox appear poised to take up seeming permanent residence in first placeand that Guillen is looking like the best skipper in the bigs.

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