Manny debuts, Konerko the hero in White Sox win

Manny debuts, Konerko the hero in White Sox win
September 1, 2010, 6:59 pm
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Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010
Updated 3:47 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

So, given all of the Manny Ramirez hullabaloo over the past week, is it OK that the Chicago White Sox apparently acquired him to stand in the on-deck circle and menace opposing pitchers into surrendering game-winning, three-run homers in the eighth inning?

For the second straight game and the second time in about 12 hours, Ramirez had the best seat in the house for such a blast. On Wednesday afternoon in Cleveland, it was Paul Konerko who launched a two-out, three-run bomb to lead Chicago to a 6-4 win and a series sweep of the Indians. It was Konerko's 12th home run this season hit after the seventh inning.

"Don't forget, I've had a real good run producer behind me all season long in Carlos Quentin," Konerko said in response to queries about the Manny Effect, as locker neighbor A.J. Pierzynski joked that his days of seeing a fat pitch in front of the team's newest slugger were over. "And besides, whenever I think too much about who's hitting behind me or what pitches I'll see, it screws me up."

Manny himself took questions in English after the game, indicating that he was indeed getting confortable (as evidenced by his animated jostling with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen in the manager's office after the game) in his new clubhouse: "I'm just happy to contribute to a win here, and I'm looking ahead to a lot more."

Seemingly everything had pointed to a White Sox sweep of the Indians at this matinee in front of a few thousand Ramirez rubberneckers.

Indeed, the ballyhooed slugger was making his White Sox debut, but the factors lining up for Chicago were more numerous than that. Freddy Garcia, the team's fifth starter who nonetheless led the team in quality start percentage and traditionally pitches well in day games and vs. the Indians, took the mound. The game began some 14 hours after an emotional and dramatic win for the White Sox. And the team was searching desperately for a kick-start into a stretch-run September in which it must make up a game per week on the first-place Minnesota Twins.

Things started off well for Chicago, as the third batter of the game, Alex Rios drove a pitch 407 feet to left-center. And in the eighth, that other Ramirez, Alexei, blasted a solo shot to left field as an appetizer for Konerko's clout one out later.

In-between, there was little joy for the Chicago 9. In the third, Asdrubal Cabrera tied the game with a two-out single to drive in Larry Donald. In the next frame, Jordan Brown tapped Jayson Nix home to push Cleveland ahead. And in the fifth, the Wahoos tallied two more, one on a double-play ball struck by Cabrera, the other a two-out infield hit by Nix.

Garcia appeared to strain his back chasing a Nix infield hit in the fourth, although he stayed in to finish the frame, and both Guillen and the starter pronounced Garcia fit for his next start. The veteran was cheated out of a chance for the win, however; pitching just four innings and 60 pitches.

The White Sox added an Ozzieball insurance run in the ninth, with Mark Teahen singling and eventually scoring while being pushed ahead by an Andruw Jones walk, Ramon Castro sacrifice bunt and Alexei Ramirez sacrifice fly.

Chisox rookie phenom Chris Sale, who Guillen hours earlier had said he was now comfortable inserting in any situation, came on in the ninth, pitched through a minor rally and notched his first career save.

"You know Ozzie, he's not afraid to do anything," an obviously-proud Sale said. "Ramon came out to talk to me, slow me down, and we just broke it down to the basics from there."

The manager himself was delighted by the resilience and fortitude of his team, which shook off its August doldrums by completing the sweep. The skipper launched kudos toward everyone from the Ramirezes to Konerko, the bullpen, yeoman long reliever Tony Pena, Garcia, Sale, and anyone else we're unable to find room to let him thank in this cyberspace.

But after a much-needed day off in Beantown, a crucial three-game set with the playoff-contending Boston Red Sox looms.

"Every series - every game - is crucial," Guillen said. "We're fighting for our lives and there's no room for rest."

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