No quit in White Sox, losing streak ends at eight

No quit in White Sox, losing streak ends at eight
September 22, 2010, 10:15 pm
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Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
Updated 8:05 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

OAKLAND Its not known whether White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had to kick anybodys behind in order to coax a last-gasp, 4-3 win over the Oakland As on Wednesday. But if he did, it worked, as Chicago snapped its season-high eight-game losing streak on the strength of a tying base tap by pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay and an eventual game-winning, pinch-hit double by Mark Teahen.

Kotsay drove in pinch-runner Alejandro De Aza on a two-out, full-count single to right, tying the contest at three. On the very next pitch, Teahen drove the ball deep to left, plating pinch-runner Gordon Beckham.

Were not going to give up, Guillen said of the comeback, Oaklands first loss this season when leading after eight innings, dropping the As to 68-1 in such circumstances. One thing about this ballclubthose guys hear from me what I tell you every dayIm proud of and pleased with the way they play. I told them Im happy the way theyve gone after it all the way from spring training to now. I mean it. They played hard all the way through and were going to continue to play hard in the games we had left.

Guillen was making a passing reference to a team meeting held before the game, where the manager both praised his players for their efforts and reminded them to dig deep for the final 11 games.

His players were neither surprised by the comeback, nor unimpressed by rallying after being one strike from a ninth consecutive setback.

Were going to play to the end, said Juan Pierre, who recorded his 60th stolen base on the season with a swipe of home in the eighth. Guys are professional in here, and its been kind of a lull during the eight games weve lost. Weve been playing hard and things havent been going right. Today we got a break, finally, with Kotsay getting a big hit, the bullpen held up and it was a good win.

That was great; you cant ask for much more, White Sox starter Edwin Jackson said. Thats the importance of keeping the game close: You keep it in striking distance and youve got a chance to do what we did today, come back and win. If you let it get out of hand, itll take a lot of runs to come back and win. Definitely, it was a battle today on both ends and defensively, but we overcame adversity and got a win.

Jackson pitched another strong game for the White Sox but narrowly averted being saddled with his 13th loss this season, courtesy of the ninth-inning rally.

I was feeling for Jackson, that if we lose this game, Jackson wouldnt be rewarded for his effort, Guillen said. Hell of an effort out there; he threw the ball very well for us. Im happy for the win and the team, but Im happy Jackson didnt get a loss.

Jackson, a smooth customer to the core, was nonplussed by the possibility of being yoked with a tough-luck defeat despite spreading five hits and three runs (two earned) over seven innings, striking out six and walking just one.

In this game, you come to learn you cant control wins and losses, Jackson said. The only thing you can do is keep the game close and give the team a chance to win. After that if you get a loss, it sucks, if you get a win, its great, and if you get a no-decision, its better than a loss. The team wonthats all that matters.

Jacksons opponent, Brett Anderson, benefited from an offense slightly more inclined to score; in 6 23 innings, the lefty rendered six hits and just one run, but had his seventh win of the season stolen away by Kotsay.

The game began on a strange note. In the top of the second, the White Sox played musical chairs, as starting DH Manny Ramirez remained on the bench and Carlos Quentin and Tyler Flowers slid up a spot in the lineup, with Dayan Viciedo replacing Ramirez at DH.

Later it was revealed that while Ramirez was listed as the starting DH in the lineup, hed come to Guillen before his pregame meeting with the club and said he wasnt feeling well. Postgame, Ramirez manifested the credo of Billy Crystals Fernandoits better to look good than to feel goodrocking the team bus with a snappy suit that earned whistles in the locker room (and tie courtesy of teammate Andruw Jones), sniffling on his way there.

Scoring opened in the third, when Chris Carter led off with a full-count, booming home run to left. It was the first career round-tripper for Carter, who managed to go 4-for-8 with his first career hit and homer in this White Sox series, after starting his major-league career in a 0-for-33 slump, the longest hitless streak to open a career in the majors for a player since Vic Harris started 0-for-36 for the Texas Rangers in 1972.

Oakland doubled its lead on an RBI single from Jack Cust in the sixth, scoring Cliff Pennington.

In the seventh, the White Sox executed a mini-rally, the only kind they seemed capable of executing over their eight-game losing streak. Quentin started things off with a double to left, advanced to third on a Flowers flyout and scored when Viciedo tapped a single to left, prompting As manager Bob Geren to escort Anderson from the game. But with two outs, Boof Bonser came on in relief and whiffed Brent Morel to escape the jam and strand Viciedo.

In the bottom of the frame, a two-out error by second baseman Brent Lillibridge would give the As what appeared to be the deciding run of the contest. Lillibridge chucked a ball past first baseman Paul Konerko on a routine grounder, allowing Jeff Larish to score.

Down 3-1, the White Sox again rallied, putting runners on first and third before a strange play allowed Pierre on third to steal home. Alexei Ramirez was caught leaning off of first base by reliever Brad Ziegler, but when the ball was dropped during the rundown of Ramirez, Pierre streaked home and executed a picture-perfect slide to score.

I wasnt aware they were even going to give me a stolen base on that, Pierre said of his steal, which moved him ahead of Scott Podsednik and into sole possession of second place on Chicagos all-time season steals chart.

Ramirez, who had returned safely to first, was eliminated on a double-play grounder off the bat of Alex Rios, and another White Sox rally ended small.

Before the heroics by Kotsay and Teahen were even a glimmer in the Chisox eye, Konerko led off the ninth with a strikeout and Quentin walked. A.J. Pierzynski pinch-hit for Flowers and tapped out, pushing pinch-runner De Aza to second. Thats where Kotsay dug in and started to stop the Chicago losing streak.

Matt Thornton relieved Jackson and pitched 1 23 scoreless innings to earn his fourth win of the season. With the tying run on first, J.J. Putz came on in the ninth to close the game out, but surrendered a single to Mark Ellis. Lefty Chris Sale came on to face Steve Tolleson, whiffing the pinch-hitter on a nasty changeup to extinguish the fire and earn his third save in three tries.

Jackson, Kotsay, Teahen and Sale all contributed to the rescue effort, and the mood postgame was immediately brighter as the White Sox packed up and headed south for their final road series of the season (vs. the Los Angeles Angels, beginning on Friday).

We played good as a group, Guillen said. The only difference between today and the past was we got clutch hitting, getting big hits late in the game, with two outs. We pitched very well late in the game, and Jackson threw well.

But for the starter, the game was a struggle.

It was a battle, one of those games where you dont necessarily feel that great, but its all mental, said Jackson, speaking personally but could easily have been taking the temperature of his entire team. You just go out there and compete. It was tough to get loose a little bit, but the more you think about it, the more its going to affect you. You just kind of laugh at it and say, here we go

In the end, a weight had been lifted off of the White Sox, Guillen joking that hed not only forgotten how to shake hands in congratulation after a win, but that he might have been shaking hands with a couple of his newer players for the very first time.

A win is always fun, Pierre said. You see guys more upbeat in here. I dont care when you win, its always a good time.

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