Perfect night for Paulie as Sox make statement

Perfect night for Paulie as Sox make statement
August 20, 2010, 2:43 am
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Friday, Aug. 20, 2010
Updated 12:22 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

MINNEAPOLIS It was an uncommonly contemplative Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen who held court for the microphones prior to Thursdays series finale vs. the Minnesota Twins.

A loss is a loss, no matter how you lost, he said. Baseball is about a clickone thing clicks for them, one thing doesnt click for us. Wednesday night when Alex Rios hit that game-ending groundout, it almost went through. Maybe two weeks ago, it would. Its not an excusethe Twins play good against usbut we didnt come here and got our butts kicked. We played good, we fought.

Zen Guillen was rewarded for his calm and faith on Thursday, as the White Sox erupted for 15 hits off of Minnesota starter Carl Pavano alone and coasted to an 11-0, 21-hit drubbing of first-place Minnesota. The rout creeps Chicago within four games of first place.

We could have dug a deeper hole here, but I feel very, very good about how the team showed up and played, Guillen said postgame. We swung the bat very well and took advantage of Pavano, one of the best pitchers in the American League this year.

It started right away, first baseman Paul Konerko said. Juan Pierre led off the game and went down 0-2 and got on.

Chicagos drubbing of the Twins ace most decidedly did not qualify as Minnesota Nice, although the White Sox were kind enough to submit 11 of their 15 hits off Pavano as singles, paced overall by Nos. 4-5 hitters Konerko (5-for-5 with a homer and a double, tying his career high for single-game hits and raising his average eight points in one night) and Mark Teahen (3-for-4 with a triple).

Besides five hits, one thing Konerko did in the game was most important for me, but the single to right scoring Rios in the seventh, Konerkos fourth hit, knocking out Pavano, wasnt greedy or selfish, Guillen said. He just tried to do his job of moving a runner over. As a coach, I like that.

I was looking to drive to right, not just to make an out, but if I made a mistake I wanted it to be to the right side, Konerko said. It was 5-0 at the time, and the way games have gone here, you can never have enough runs. But I dont have to be told to play the game the right way. I dont even give that a second thought.

As for Teahen, Guillen said of course hed be in the lineup in his return to Kansas City Friday night: I just have to figure out where. You hit, youll be in the lineup.

Pierre added three hits and reached base four times, giving him eight hits for the series and running his latest hitting streak to eight games. He had two singles in the first two innings, and stole his major league-leading 48th base in the second. Pierre was spiked on the play by shortstop Nick Punto, and while blood gushed down Pierres right arm, he was in motion toward third on a steal attempt on the very next pitch.

I looked up at the scoreboard and saw Juan hitting .270 now .277 and I was surprised, Guillen said. Thats a very nice rise, especially when we needed it most. Hes consistent, getting on base, and playing the game right.

Omar Vizquel and Alexei Ramirez also contributed three hits apiece to the Chicago assault, with Ramirez chiming in with a double and finishing up the scoring with a two-run homer in the eighth.

The White Sox were so locked in on Pavano that the righthander threw only four of 87 pitches for swinging strikes.

I couldnt put my finger on it, Konerko said of pummeling Pavano. I got a couple of good fastballs to hit, and he may have grabbed some more plate than usual on some pitches. We were aggressive. Weve been swinging the bats pretty well, and guys were still feeling good up there.

On the other hand, Mark Buehrle shackled the Twins over seven innings, allowing just five hits and one walk against four strikeouts.

I was just kind of glad I didnt give up any runs in the second inning, Buehrle joked, in reference to Minnesotas propensity to score early in the series. You get a lead, you just want to throw as many zeros as you can. You just cant give runs back up.

We needed a win, it was good to get some runs early, Konerko said. When you do that, Buehrle usually doesnt give it back.

J.J. Putz came on in the eighth and retired only two batters, struggling with his velocity and eventually leaving with a right knee injury after facing just four Twins (Putz said the injury wasnt major and is considered day-to-day). Bobby Jenks came on for a perfect ninth, re-establishing his role as White Sox closer.

While mildly scolding Putz for staying in the game too long when feeling less than 100 percent, Guillen praised Jenks for his effort on returning from a back injury.

Bobby threw the ball good today, Guillen said. I never want Bobby pitching in the sixth or seventh, I want him in the ninth. With what we saw tonight we have the confidence to get him back in his role.

Konerko is forever this White Sox teams heartbeat and barometer, and its been his quiet confidence that has helped to keep the clubhouse at a proper temperature, through good and bad. Its appropriate that his five-hit game helped spur a must-win game, yes. But to Konerko, theres much more at stake ahead.

Yeah, theres a different ring to being four back vs. six back in the standings, he said. Weve dug a hole here again, but theres still time to dig out of it. We cant be happy walking out of here losing two of three, but we have to focus on coming back and working hard tomorrow.

And while Guillen is about as pensive as his team captain is manic, the skipper is savoring the 2010 pennant race, and he shared that sentiment with his team on Thursday.

I told the guys going out to the field, Lets enjoy this moment. We could be another team, in last place, out of it. You never know when youll be fighting for the pennant ever again.

As for the Twins, Guillen said, Give me a shot against them late in the season. I predict this thing goes all the way to the wire. If we stay healthy, were going to compete. We will fight to the end. Were going to fight like a champ, till we cant anymore.

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