Showing posts with label Mark Buehrle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mark Buehrle. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

My favorite memory from Roy Halladay's career

Roy Halladay
The baseball world was shocked and saddened by the news that former All-Star pitcher Roy Halladay died Tuesday when his private plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Halladay, 40, left fans with quite a few memories from his brilliant career. He won the Cy Young award in both leagues. He pitched a perfect game, then fired a no-hitter in the playoffs that same season for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Those are all great accomplishments, but when I think of Halladay, the first thing that comes to mind is a game that I attended July 28, 2007, at U.S. Cellular Field.

What a duel it was that night between Halladay, who was then the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays, and White Sox All-Star Mark Buehrle. The game lasted only two hours, seven minutes, as two of the best in the game at that time put on a pitching clinic.

Buehrle earned the 2-0 win, as he scattered eight hits over eight shutout innings. Despite taking the loss, Halladay fired a 126-pitch complete game. He gave up 10 hits, but most of them did no damage whatsoever.

The lone exception? A two-run homer by Jerry Owens in the bottom of the seventh inning, which scored Danny Richar, who had singled one pitch earlier.

That home run turned out to be the only one of Owens' career in 540 plate appearances. Of all people to produce the game-winning runs against the great Halladay, it was the combination of Owens and Richar.

Owens hooked an inside cutter from Halladay down the right-field line, barely fair and just over the wall 335 feet from home plate. That's the beauty of baseball -- you sometimes see things you never expect to see.

What a great game that was.

And that wasn't the only time Halladay and Buehrle hooked up for a classic duel during the 2007 season. They also pitched against each other in Toronto on May 31. That game took only one hour, 50 minutes to play. The final score of that game also was 2-0, but Halladay got the upper hand with seven shutout innings, while Buehrle took a complete-game loss.

That was the same day Sox great Frank Thomas, then with the Blue Jays, homered off his good friend and former teammate Buehrle.

While we all can enjoy the occasional 13-12 slugfest, for me, there's something great about watching two star-caliber pitchers lock up in a low-scoring game. In those types of games, you never know which pitch is going to be the one that decides the game, and you never who the hero is going to be.

Sometimes it's Frank Thomas, a Hall of Famer, and sometimes it's Jerry Owens, a player long forgotten by most people.

When I think of Roy Halladay, I'm first going to think of that pitchers' duel in July 2007. Even though he was the opponent of my favorite team, it was a joy to watch him compete.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Michael Kopech named Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher

White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech has been named the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher for 2017.

Kopech, 21, recently was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte, but this recognition is for the right-hander's season-long dominance at Double-A Birmingham.

In 22 starts for the Barons, Kopech went 8-7 with a 2.87 ERA. Among qualified pitchers, he led the Southern League in strikeouts (155), batting average against (.184), hits allowed (77) and strikeouts per nine innings pitched (11.69).

Kopech becomes the first Sox farmhand to win this honor since Mark Buehrle in 2000. In that season, Buehrle went 8-4 with a 2.28 ERA before receiving a July promotion to the Sox. Buehrle never returned to the minor leagues after that. The following year, in 2001, he won 16 games for the Sox, and the rest is history. The Sox retired his No. 56 in June.

I doubt Kopech will be on any fast track to the major leagues. He's thrown 129.1 innings this season combined between Birmingham and Charlotte, and that is by far a career high.

So far for Charlotte, he's 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts. He's scheduled to pitch for the Knights on Friday night, and I'm guessing that will be it for his year, since the minor-league regular season ends within a week.

There have been rumblings that Kopech will compete for a rotation spot in spring training next year, but the smart money has him starting in Charlotte in 2018. Even if everything continues to go well, I can't see Kopech coming to Chicago until after the Super Two service time issues are no longer an issue.

Keep in mind, we didn't see Yoan Moncada or Reynaldo Lopez get a call to the majors until the second half this year. Kopech is one prospect we could see in the second half of next year, but most likely not before then.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement a highlight of 2017 season

Former Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, with his wife and children
White Sox great Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement ceremony Saturday moved at a quick pace -- much like the games Buehrle used to pitch on the South Side of Chicago. The ceremony was over in less than a half-hour, but it was a fitting tribute for a man who was deserving of the honor.

Buehrle warned us that his speech would be short and sweet, and it was. He opened by telling the nearly 40,000 fans who had gathered, "I should be on the mound, not standing here in front of this mic talking to you guys." That drew a loud round of applause from the crowd -- Buehrle looked as if he was in better shape than he was in the final days of his career in Toronto, and it's not far-fetched to believe he would fare better on the mound right now than James Shields does these days.

Buehrle didn't mention many people by name in his speech, probably because he didn't want to leave anybody out. He acknowledged each of the groups in attendance -- his family, including his wife, children and parents; coaches, staff and former teammates; extended family and friends; and finally, the fans of Chicago.

Other speakers included pitching coach Don Cooper, Hall of Famer Frank Thomas and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Other former teammates in attendance included Joe Crede, Jon Garland, Scott Podsednik, Cliff Politte, Jim Thome, John Danks and Ross Gload. Ex-managers Jerry Manuel and Ozzie Guillen also were on hand.

Thomas' speech was a highlight, and he concluded with perhaps the best line of the afternoon when he turned to Buehrle and said, "Congratulations. Stop being modest. You’re one of the greatest pitchers that ever toed this rubber in Comiskey Park, ever.”

Indeed, the Big Hurt is correct.

Who is the pitcher with the most wins in the history of the ballpark? It's Buehrle with 90. Who is the only pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters in the history of the ballpark? It's Buehrle. Who is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in that ballpark? It's Buehrle. Add in the 2005 World Series championship, the three Gold Glove awards and the four All-Star appearances, and the victory in the 2005 All-Star Game, and that's why No. 56 is up on the stadium wall.

The Sox, of course, had a video montage paying tribute to Buehrle's career. The left-field scoreboard today is a mishmash of social media and other assorted crap, but for a brief moment during the tribute, they made the scoreboard look like it did the day of Buehrle's perfect game, July 23, 2009, when he was one out away with Tampa Bay's Jason Bartlett at the plate.

As we remember, Buehrle finished the job by retiring Bartlett on a routine grounder to short. I still find it eerie that the Sox had five runs on six hits on No. 56's perfect day. That coincidence never gets old for me.

It was also cool that the Sox found the kid who had the ball from Buehrle's famous between-the-legs-flip play from Opening Day 2010. Buehrle was presented with that ball as part of the ceremony. The play is still the greatest defensive play I've ever seen a pitcher make. If you haven't seen it, or don't remember it, click the link. It's incredible.

And, of course, no Sox ceremony would be complete without Reinsdorf taking a subtle dig at the fans. During his speech, he pointed out to Buehrle that there normally are not 40,000 people in the ballpark, as there were on Saturday.

Yeah, no kidding, Jerry, your current team stinks.

We were reminded of that quickly when the ceremony ended and the game started. Two batters in, Shields and the Sox trailed 2-0, and fans were chanting for Buehrle to come on the mound and pitch.

Predictably, the 2017 Sox squandered the festive atmosphere, losing 10-2 to fellow last-place team Oakland. In case you were wondering, the Sox are 9-17 in the past 26 games in which they have drawn more than 30,000 fans.

The game took three hours, 22 minutes to play. It was an anti-Buehrle kind of game on Buehrle's day, which is unfortunate, but it served as a good reminder that we need to cherish the good times of the past while we suffer through the present-day problems with the organization.

One of the great things about Saturday: Seeing Buehrle and all those former players took me back to a different and better time and place, when Sox baseball was fun, and you could count on the team being serious about winning.

Hopefully, those days will return with a next generation of players -- sometime before we die.

Monday, April 3, 2017

White Sox Opening Day shenanigans predictable

My girlfriend, Jen, and I combined to spend zero dollars on concessions Monday at White Sox Opening Day.

We were talking and looking at the weather forecast Sunday night, and both of us were less than enthusiastic for the home opener vs. the Detroit Tigers -- we had a gut feeling the game was going to get rained out.

And it was rained out.

I just wish the Sox would have told fans that there would be no game at 10 o'clock in the morning, instead of 5 p.m. It would have saved me the trip down to the South Side, fighting traffic and whatnot, to see not one single pitch of baseball.

The last time weather caused the Sox home opener to be postponed? It was in 2009, and on the Sunday night before the scheduled game, the club announced that the game would be played Tuesday, instead of Monday, and fans had time to adjust their schedules accordingly.  That's the right way to do it, and many Sox fans applauded the way the situation was handled.

Alas, times have changed, and that's not the way the Sox do business any longer. In 2009, the Sox were coming off a division championship in 2008. They were only four years removed from winning the World Series. They still had a strong season-ticket holder base. They still were getting decent attendance totals for games other than the home opener and the crosstown series. If some fans couldn't come that Tuesday, hey, no big deal, there would still be quite a few fans there that day and every other day during the season.

Fast forward to 2017, the team hasn't made the playoffs since 2008, hasn't had a winning season since 2012 and has embarked on a rebuilding project that will almost certainly render the club to second-division status for the next three years. Fan apathy is at an all-time high. There are probably only four home games all season that fans are going to show up to -- the home opener, the Mark Buehrle jersey retirement ceremony on June 24 and the two crosstown games.

Knowing this, during our discussion Sunday night, Jen and I both agreed about what was going to happen: There was no way they were going to call the game early. They were going to make sure the crowd of 40,000 came down to the stadium, and they were going to drag it out as long as possible before announcing the game was postponed. Game or no game, they wanted fans to eat, drink and be merry, pay that concession money and line Jerry Reinsdorf's coffers. Because, starting Tuesday, it will be a couple months before you see 40,000 fans at Guaranteed Rate Field again.

We're longtime Sox fans, so we weren't going to fall for that crap. We ate at Rocky's, our favorite Bridgeport bar, before the game. The Sox no doubt made money hand over fist from the fans who didn't know any better, but we didn't give them a dime. Sure, I paid my $20 parking fee, but the ticket says I can turn it in for $20 worth of Comiskey Cash in the event the game is rained out. You can be 100 percent sure I'll be doing just that. No extra profits for Reinsdorf after he wasted my Monday afternoon.

The Sox even went about the business of having the pregame ceremonies during a short break in the rain, right around 3:30. They pulled the tarp back just far enough for the players to have room to stand along the foul lines (see picture). The national anthem was sung. Then the tarp was pulled back just far enough for former Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

But once that was over, the tarp went back on, to a chorus of boos from fans who did not know better. Jen and I, and our friend, Brian, were not fooled. We've all been Sox fans since we were little kids. We saw the radar on our smartphones. We saw that starting pitchers Jose Quintana and Justin Verlander never came onto the field. Note to novice fans: They aren't serious about playing the game until the pitchers appear and start warming up.

Predictably, they kept the park open and sold concessions for 90 more minutes after the "pregame" ceremonies. Some of us just laughed at the absurdity of it all. Predictable shenanigans. Predictable White Sox money grab. Then, with the rain coming down, they called it.

And, oh, the stadium escalators were turned off after they announced the game was postponed, so everyone had to walk down the ramps in the pouring rain. Thanks for that, Sox. I'm sure they turned off the escalators for "fan safety" or some such nonsense.

For many of us, we've seen it all before, and we're not surprised. And then the Sox wonder why they don't have as many fans as they once did ...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

White Sox to retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56

White Sox players celebrate Mark Buehrle's perfect game in 2009.
The White Sox on Thursday announced that they will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 jersey in a ceremony June 24 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Buehrle spent 12 seasons with the Sox and collected 161 of his 214 career victories with the South Siders.

The former 38th-round draft pick made four All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, tossed two no-hitters -- including a perfect game -- and was a key member of the Sox's World Series-winning rotation in 2005.

"Mark Buehrle is one of the most accomplished pitchers in franchise history," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Mark carried himself with class and professionalism throughout his career, and his popularity with staff, teammates and Sox fans is very well deserved. Although a very humble person, he certainly showed a flair for the dramatic on the mound, from a no-hitter to an unforgettable perfect game to a World Series title. A standout on the field and a standup teammate in the clubhouse, it is our honor to retire Mark Buehrle’s No. 56 and to welcome him into the legendary class of all-time White Sox greats."

Buehrle is one of my all-time favorite Sox players. His jersey hangs in my closet. There are so many good memories of his career that it's hard to pick a favorite, but I'll do it anyway.

I've been to hundreds of Sox games in my 40 years on the planet, but I've only seen one no-hitter in person. It was Buehrle's, on April 18, 2007, against the Texas Rangers. He faced the minimum 27 batters in the 6-0 win. He walked only one -- Sammy Sosa -- and he promptly picked Sosa off first base.

I saved my ticket stub from that game and all the clippings from the newspaper the following morning. Those materials are now framed and hung on a wall in my living room. It's a game I'll never forget the rest of my life.

Buehrle provided so many other great moments for the Sox and their fans -- getting the save in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series after pitching seven innings as the starter in Game 2; the 12-strikeout performance against the Seattle Mariners in a game that lasted only 1 hour, 39 minutes; the one-hitter against Tampa Bay in his first full season as a starter; the famous flip-between-the-legs play on Opening Day 2010 -- I could go on like this for hours.

But instead, let's just celebrate Buehrle's career by watching all the outs from his 27-up, 27-down masterpiece against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009. This is a clinic in how to pitch. Only six of the 27 outs were strikeouts, but just notice the weak contact on most of the other 21 outs. Aside from the spectacular catch by Dewayne Wise in the top of the ninth inning, it's just routine play after routine play for Sox fielders. Enjoy:



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Anthony Ranaudo's White Sox debut memorable, but unfortunate

Anthony Ranaudo
With Carlos Rodon still stuck on the disabled list, the White Sox turned to Anthony Ranaudo to make a spot start Wednesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Ranaudo held up his end of the bargain. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and even became the first Sox pitcher to hit a home run since Mark Buehrle in 2009.

But from the sixth inning on, it all unraveled, and the Sox lost 8-1 -- although very little of that damage was Ranaudo's fault.

The Sox led 1-0 into the sixth inning before Kris Bryant ended Ranaudo's no-hit bid and shutout with a solo home run on a 3-1 hanging curve ball. To Ranaudo's credit, he did not get rattled. He retired the next two hitters and got the game into the seventh inning with score tied at 1.

After the first two Sox hitters made outs in the seventh, manager Robin Ventura allowed Ranaudo to hit for himself. I thought that might have been a spot to give Justin Morneau an opportunity to pinch hit against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, but given the Sox's thin bullpen, Ventura decided to try to get another inning out of Ranaudo. A questionable decision, but not indefensible by any means.

It looked like it would work out, initially, as Ranaudo retired Miguel Montero and Addison Russell on groundouts to start the bottom of the inning. That's where things got dicey, and frankly, what occurred the rest of the seventh was not Ranaudo's fault.

The Sox right-hander snapped off beautiful curve ball to Jason Heyward on a 2-2 pitch. It was right at the bottom of the zone and over the plate. It fooled Heyward, and he took it for what should have been strike three, inning over. But catcher Dioner Navarro's lousy framing skills once against cost the Sox. As Navarro caught the pitch, he snapped his glove downward, making it seem like the ball was in the dirt. The Sox didn't get the call, the inning continued, and Heyward walked on the next pitch.

Ranaudo was at 101 pitches at that point, and that should have been the end of his night. Javier Baez was the next Cubs hitter, and Ventura should have gone with one of the power right-handed arms in his bullpen. It would have been nice to see Carson Fulmer, or even Tommy Kahnle, in that spot to give Baez a different look.

Instead, Ranaudo remained, and he hung a 3-2 curve to Baez, who hit one out to give the Cubs the lead for good at 3-1. Then, Ventura emerges from the dugout to make a pitching change.

A day later and a dollar short there, Robin.

Fulmer and Jacob Turner struggled in the bottom of the eighth inning, allowing the Cubs to blow it open with five more runs, but the game was lost with the lousy receiving of Navarro and the questionable decision-making of Ventura in the seventh inning.

Ranaudo deserved a better fate, and to add insult to injury, he was the one who was sent to the minors after the game to make room on the roster for Chris Sale, who is returning from his five-game suspension.

Between the home run and limiting the Cubs to two hits over 6.2 innings, I'd say Ranaudo's debut was a memorable one, but he unfortunately became a victim of the usual White Sox nonsense.

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 18: the nine-year anniversary of Mark Buehrle's no-hitter vs. Texas

Mark Buehrle
I've long since lost count of how many baseball games I've attended in my lifetime. It's well up into the hundreds, I'm sure.

But the only no-hitter I've ever seen in person occurred nine years ago today, on April 18, 2007, when Mark Buehrle beat the Texas Rangers, 6-0, at U.S. Cellular Field.

I have my ticket stub and newspaper accounts from the game framed on my wall. I could live another 40 years and maybe not see another no-hitter in person, so that night in 2007 remains one of my most cherished baseball memories.

That game was a unique one in baseball history. It still is the only game ever to feature a multi-homer game, a grand slam and a no-hitter. Think of all the games that have been played over a century-plus in Major League Baseball. What I witnessed that night has happened just once -- Jim Thome hit two home runs, Jermaine Dye hit a grand slam, and Buehrle tossed a no-hitter, all in the same game.

I was very, very close to seeing a perfect gamet. Buehrle faced the minimum 27 hitters. The only blemish came with one out in the fifth inning when he walked the washed-up Sammy Sosa, then promptly picked him off.

Sosa was 38 years old at the time, in his last season in the big leagues. He was not a fast runner in the latter stages of his career. I don't know where he thought he was going. In any case, it was a funny moment because, well, Sox fans hate Sosa. He was a bum when he was with the Sox, then made his name with the Cubs (with the help of chemical enhancements), and it was always somewhat infuriating that he was wrongfully considered a better player than Frank Thomas in the city of Chicago. Time has proven that to be false, but it was great to see Buehrle embarrass the perpetually overrated Sosa with the pickoff.

The other image in my mind from that night was the final out -- a weak tapper up the third-base line by Texas catcher Gerald Laird. You heard a groan come up from the crowd as the ball left the bat; it definitely crossed my mind that the ball would die on the grass for an infield single -- it was that weakly struck. But fortunately, Sox third baseman Joe Crede still was in his pre-injury defensive prime at the time, and Laird was a slow runner.

Crede made the play easily, making it an historic and unforgettable night on the South Side of Chicago.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Howie Kendrick, Jean Segura, Carlos Quentin, Mark Buehrle, etc.

Howie Kendrick
Shifting the focus from SoxFest and its aftermath, let's take a look at some of the other news and notes from around baseball the past few days.

Kendrick returns to Dodgers on two-year deal; Segura to Diamondbacks

Veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick signed a two-year, $20 million contract to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, a deal that figures to be a bargain for the Dodgers.

Kendrick turned down a qualifying offer that would have paid him $15.8 million for the 2016 season, and apparently could not find another team that was interested in coughing up a draft pick in order to sign him.

This move makes the Dodgers better, because Kendrick is a better solution at second base than a platoon of Chase Utley and Enrique Hernandez. Moreover, it keeps Kendrick away from the NL West rival Arizona Diamondbacks, who have needs in the middle infield and seemed to be a logical destination for Kendrick.

Apparently, the Diamondbacks didn't want to part with the 39th pick in the draft, which they would have surrendered to the Dodgers had they signed Kendrick. Instead, they traded pitcher Chase Anderson, infielder Aaron Hill and minor leaguer Isan Diaz to the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Jean Segura and pitcher Tyler Wagner.

Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said the club is "seeking a little bit more offense" with this trade. OK, let's compare Kendrick and Segura.

2015:
Kendrick: .295/.336/.409, 9 HRs, 54 RBIs, 6 SBs
Segura: .257/.281/.336, 6 HRs, 50 RBIs, 25 SBs

Career:
Kendrick: .293/.336/.409
Segura: .266/.301/.360

If you were "seeking a little bit more offense," which player would you add? Kendrick, right? It's a slam dunk.

So, instead of surrendering the 39th pick in the draft to sign Kendrick and keep him away from the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks surrendered a major league pitcher (Anderson) and a good prospect (Diaz) to trade for Segura, who is clearly a lesser player than Kendrick.

This is a fail for Arizona.

Quentin comes out of retirement, signs with Twins

Former White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, 33, will attempt a comeback with the Minnesota Twins. He signed a minor league deal Tuesday that would pay him $750,000 if he is added to the 40-man roster.

Quentin enjoyed his best season in 2008 with the White Sox, when he totaled 36 home runs and 100 RBIs. Injuries have plagued his career -- he hasn't played more than 86 games in a season since 2011. He last played in the majors with San Diego in 2014 and announced his retirement after Atlanta released him in April 2015.

Buehrle not signing a contract, not retiring either

Former White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, currently a free agent, says he's “not planning to sign, but not officially retiring," acccording to reports.

The 37-year-old lefty finished last season with a 3.81 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays and probably could help a team as a veteran at the back of the rotation.

If some team has an injury to a significant member of its starting staff during spring training, I wouldn't be surprised if that team gives Buehrle a call.

Will anyone sign Thornton?

Continuing with this theme of former White Sox, they say left-handers can pitch forever. That being the case, how come relief pitcher Matt Thornton can't find a job?

Sure, he's 39 years old and not as overpowering as he used to be, but he held left-handed hitters to a .198/.205/.279 slash line and compiled a 2.18 ERA with the Washington Nationals last year.

Hard to believe some team can't use that.

Olivo gets minor league deal with Giants

Former White Sox catcher Miguel Olivo, 37, has signed a minor league deal with San Francisco. Olivo spent 2015 in the Mexican League, exiled after the Dodgers released him in 2014 for biting off a chunk of Alex Guerrero's ear during a dugout brawl at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chris Sale makes All-Star team, bests Mark Buehrle in quick-moving game

For White Sox fans, there was little drama in the announcement of the American League All-Star team. We all knew the South Siders were only going to get one representative, and we all knew it would be the very deserving Chris Sale.

Sale's record may be a good-but-not-great 7-4, but it's solid when you consider he pitches for the 37-43 White Sox. He leads the league in strikeouts with 147, and he recently became just the second pitcher in MLB history to strike out 10 or more men in eight consecutive starts. Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez is the other.

For Sale, it is his fourth All-Star selection. In case you were wondering, the record for All-Star appearances by a White Sox pitcher is held by Billy Pierce, who represented the South Siders in the Midsummer Classic seven times.

Coincidentally, Sale's mound opponent on Monday night, Mark Buehrle, also represented the Sox in the All-Star game four times.

Hours after his selection, Sale bested Buehrle in one of the better games played at U.S. Cellular Field this season. Both left-handers tossed complete games as the Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2.

Sale had "only" six strikeouts, ending his streak of double-digit strikeout games. The Toronto hitters did a lot of hacking early in counts in this game, which kept Sale's strikeout total down, but perhaps contributed to him being able to go the distance on 108 pitches.

But despite Sale's effort, he was trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Home runs by Chris Colabello and Josh Donaldson had staked Buehrle and the Blue Jays to a one-run lead.

However, the Sox capitalized on some shoddy Toronto defense in the bottom of the eighth inning. Gordon Beckham reached base after Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes let a routine grounder go right between his legs. Two outs later, Adam Eaton singled, putting runners on the corners with two outs for Jose Abreu. The Sox first baseman didn't hit Buehrle's first-pitch changeup hard, but it found the grass in center field. Beckham scored to tie the game, 2-2.

That brought up Melky Cabrera, a longtime Buehrle nemesis. The Sox left fielder smashed a two-run double down the left-field line to score Eaton and Abreu and make the score 4-2. Cabrera is now 19 for 34 lifetime against Buehrle.

Sale gave up a pair of singles in the top of the ninth, but he got out of trouble by inducing Danny Valencia to ground into a game-ending double play.

The game lasted just 1 hour, 54 minutes. No bullpens needed; no walks issued by either pitcher. What fan wouldn't enjoy that kind of baseball?

Monday, April 20, 2015

White Sox call up top prospect Carlos Rodon, activate Jake Petricka from the disabled list

The White Sox have promoted their top prospect to the big leagues. Left-hander Carlos Rodon will be available to work out of the bullpen Monday night when the South Siders take on the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox also have activated relief pitcher Jake Petricka (forearm) from the disabled list. To make room for Rodon and Petricka, relief pitcher Javy Guerra was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to April 13) with shoulder inflammation, and relief pitcher Kyle Drabek was designated for assignment.

Rodon's early call-up is a bit of a surprise. He made only two starts in Triple-A Charlotte. The first was a good one, as he struck out nine and allowed only a run on two hits in five innings against Norfolk on April 11. His second outing was just average, three runs on six hits with four strikeouts in five innings against Gwinnett on April 16.

The Sox had indicated a preference to have him work as a starter, presumably because he might eventually be called up to take the place of one of the Sox's two middling starters -- John Danks and Hector Noesi -- later in the season.

But apparently, the Sox have changed course and decided to let Rodon get his feet wet at the big-league level by using him as a reliever. It's the same philosophy they used with Mark Buehrle and Chris Sale in previous years.

Some have speculated the Sox are bringing Rodon up to try to give a slow-starting 4-7 team a jolt, but let's hope he's actually being called up because he's ready for the opportunity. I would suspect that's the case. I can't believe the Sox would rush Rodon to the big leagues for public relations reasons. The organization makes some questionable moves, but there is no way they are that stupid.

Petricka, who had 14 saves for the 2014 Sox, fired a scoreless inning in each of his two rehab outings at Triple-A Charlotte. He figures to give manager Robin Ventura another option in the seventh or eighth inning moving forward.

Guerra is unscored upon in three appearances for the Sox this season, but he's worked only 1.2 innings. Perhaps the shoulder issue was a reason for his scarce workload to this point in the year.

Drabek has not distinguished himself in three outings this season, allowing three runs on nine hits over 5.1 innings. If he clears waivers and reports to Charlotte, that's nice, but if another team does claim him, the Sox have other pitchers in their organization who can do what he does.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Looking back on Paul Konerko's White Sox career

The end of an era is approaching.

There will be no games remaining on the 2014 White Sox schedule a week from now. That also means there will be no games left to play in the remarkable career of Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who will retire at the end of the week after 18 seasons -- 16 of them on the South Side of Chicago.

When Opening Day 2015 rolls around, Konerko isn't going to be at U.S. Cellular Field for the first time since 1998. Isn't that going to be a weird feeling for us all? 

Konerko knows the time is right to walk away. Time, age and injuries have taken their toll. He's not an everyday player anymore. He's not the hitter he used to be, as his .216 batting average this season shows. He hasn't been able to play much the past three weeks after breaking a bone in his hand the first week of September.

Everyone associated with the White Sox would like to see a storybook ending for Konerko, but there's a very real possibility he has hit his last home run in a Chicago uniform. Heck, there's a possibility he's gotten his last base hit in a Sox uniform, too, but even if that's the case, it's OK. We should not spend too much time lamenting the struggles Konerko has had in his final season. Rather, we should celebrate the player Konerko was, and the exemplary career he has had.

Konerko's name is high on a lot of lists in White Sox franchise history. That's no small thing. The Sox are one of the charter franchises in the American League. A lot of players have come through the South Side over the past 113 years, and Konerko has been one of the best. The numbers speak for themselves, but we'll recite them anyway.

Konerko is the all-time franchise leader in total bases with 4,009. He ranks second in home runs (432), RBIs (1,383) and games played (2,264). He is third in hits (2,291), doubles (406), plate appearances (9,244) and at-bats (8,155). He ranks fourth in runs scored with 1,141.

If you look at the franchise's leaders in these categories, the names ahead of Konerko are players such as Luke Appling, Nellie Fox and Frank Thomas. Those are Hall of Famers.

If you've paid any attention to the Chicago media lately, there's been a lot of discussion of some of the great moments in Konerko's career. His grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series was his finest hour. It was arguably the biggest hit in White Sox history. Earlier that postseason, there were big home runs in Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS, a series in which Konerko earned MVP.

These are moments that are fondly remembered, and rightfully so. However, an outstanding career in baseball is about more than handful of big hits on the postseason stage. There are plenty of players who have had their 15 minutes of fame after one good game or one big moment in a championship series. Konerko is not one of those guys. That grand slam in the World Series will live forever, but his career with the Sox has been so much more than that.

I've been privileged to see Konerko play in person about 200 times over the past 16 years. I've watched most of his 9,244 plate appearances with the Sox either at the ballpark or on television. When I reflect back on all those games, there are two memories that stand out that I'd like to share. It may surprise you that neither of them involve postseason play.

April 16, 2005: White Sox 2, Mariners 1

I'll bet a lot of Sox fans remember this game, but not because of Konerko. This game is famous because it lasted only one hour, 39 minutes. It is far and away the shortest White Sox game I have ever attended. At the time, former Sox ace Mark Buehrle had not yet throw his 2007 no-hitter against the Texas Rangers, or his 2009 perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. This game was perhaps the signature moment of Buehrle's career to that point. He struck out 12. He only gave up three hits. He worked quick. He made the Mariners look foolish.

But guess what? Buehrle doesn't get the win without Konerko's performance that day. This was a game where the two teams combined for only seven hits. You could count the number of hard-hit balls the entire afternoon on one hand. Two of those hard-hit balls came off Konerko's bat. Both of them landed in the left-field seats. Those were the only two runs the Sox scored. That was the margin Buehrle needed.

Without those two homers, one hour and 39 minutes never happens. Maybe the game goes extra innings and ends up lasting three hours. Who knows? Buehrle got most of the headlines and most of the credit that day. He deserved it. However, you might say the final score was Konerko 2, Mariners 1.

This was an April game with 20,000-some people in the stands. The bright lights weren't shining. It wasn't considered a monumental win in the big picture, but I'll never forget Konerko's performance that day.

August 8, 2006: White Sox 6, Yankees 5 (11 innings)

In this game, the Sox trailed 5-4 in the ninth inning when Konerko stepped to the plate to face New York closer Mariano Rivera, who was the best closer of his generation and a future Hall of Famer.

Rivera is known for having just one pitch - a cutter than moves in on the hands of left-handed batters and away from right-handed batters such as Konerko. During the at-bat, I vividly remember Konerko swinging and missing badly as he attempted to pull an outside cutter from Rivera.

From my seat in the stands, I yelled at the top of my lungs, "C'mon, Paulie, you know it's going to be a cutter away! Go with the pitch and hit the damn ball to right-center field!"

Not that Konerko could hear me, but the next pitch was a cutter away, and Konerko swatted it just over the wall in right-center field for a game-tying home run. The fans seated near me looked at me like, "How did you know?"

The Sox went on to win in 11 innings on a walk-off single by Jermaine Dye, but Konerko's homer was easily the biggest hit of the game. Part of Konerko's genius was his ability to made adjustments from pitch to pitch, even against a tremendous pitcher such as Rivera. That home run that night was perhaps the best example of that I've seen.

There are probably some Sox fans out there who have little or no recollection of these two games, but I'll bet every Sox fan has a couple of Konerko performances they recall vividly like the ones I just described. There has been too many of them to mention.

Maybe your favorite Konerko moment was in the World Series, or maybe it was on a quiet April afternoon in front of a sparse crowd. A great career in baseball is made up of dozens of moments, and Konerko consistently provided them for the White Sox -- in games both big and small -- for the past 16 years. Players like that only come around every so often, and for that reason, we should celebrate Konerko's accomplishments as the book closes on his time as a player.

After Sunday's game against the Kansas City Royals ends, no Sox player is ever going to wear No. 14 again. You can count on that -- just as the Sox have counted on Paul Konerko for big hits every year since 1999.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Yusmeiro Petit breaks Mark Buehrle's record

San Francisco Giants right-hander Yusmeiro Petit on Thursday became the first pitcher in major league history to retire 46 consecutive batters.

Petit entered Thursday's action having set down 38 straight hitters over his seven previous appearances (six of them in relief). He was given an opportunity to start in place of the struggling Tim Lincecum and retired the first eight men he faced against the Colorado Rockies in a 4-1 San Francisco win.

Oddly enough, opposing pitcher Jordan Lyles ended the streak with a two-out double in the top of the third inning.

Petit's accomplishment breaks the previous record of 45 consecutive batters retired, which was held by Mark Buehrle. The former White Sox ace tossed a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 23, 2009, and followed that up by retiring the first 17 hitters in his next start against the Minnesota Twins.

The four longest such streaks were all recorded by members of either the White Sox or the Giants. Sox fans will recall that former closer Bobby Jenks had a similar streak in 2007.

Most batters retired consecutively:
1. Petit, Giants, 46 in 2014
2. Buehrle, White Sox, 45 in 2009
3 (t). Jim Barr, Giants, 41 in 1972
3 (t). Jenks, White Sox, 41 in 2007

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bunting with two strikes ... sometimes that works

I was watching a White Sox-Reds spring training game last week when I saw Sox center fielder Adam Eaton bunt for a base hit on an 0-2 pitch. The Cincinnati third baseman was so stunned that he threw the ball away on the play. Even with an accurate throw, Eaton would have been safe.  

I thought to myself, "I haven't seen a Sox player try something like that in quite a few years."  

Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon: With the score tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 11th inning, Sox infielder Leury Garcia lays down a perfect bunt on an 0-2 pitch. He beats the play out without a throw.  Later in the inning, he scores the game-winning run on a wild pitch as the Sox defeat the Minnesota Twins, 7-6.  

It would be a refreshing change if the Sox can find a way to score some runs this season without the benefit of the long ball. On Wednesday, only one of their seven tallies came on a home run -- a solo shot by Adam Dunn in the eighth inning.  

The Sox scored three runs in the second inning on three singles, a double and two sacrifice hits. They rallied to tie the game with two runs in the ninth on three singles and a fielder's choice. It was encouraging to see some manufactured runs with the game on the line.

Speaking of that ninth-inning rally, Paul Konerko got off to a good start in his new bench role. He led off the inning with a pinch-hit single off Minnesota closer Glen Perkins, who is left-handed. Konerko, for all his struggles in 2013, hit .313 against left-handed pitchers a year ago. He can still be effective for the Sox if he is spotted in matchups that are favorable for him.

'Don't want to get picked off here in this situation'

Good news for the Cubs: Their new leadoff man, Emilio Bonifacio, is swinging the bat exceptionally well out of the gate. He's 9 for 12 through the first two games of the season.  

Bad news for the Cubs: Bonifacio has been picked off base two of the nine times he's reached, and he would have been picked off a third time if the Pittsburgh first baseman had not dropped the ball.

I don't know if I've ever seen a guy get picked off three times the first two days of the season. Would that be some kind of record? It's hard to come down too hard on Bonifacio, though, because he's one of the few Cub hitters off to a good start. The North Siders are 0-2, having lost a pair of extra-inning contests in Pittsburgh. They've scored only three runs in 26 innings against the Pirates pitching staff.

On Wednesday, the Cubs rallied from a 2-0 deficit with a run in the eighth and another run in the ninth. They even took a short-lived 3-2 lead on Anthony Rizzo's solo home run in the top of the 12th. But new closer Jose Veras failed in his first save situation. He gave up the lead and was fortunate to escape a bases-loaded jam and with only one run allowed in the bottom of the 12th. Veras was taking forever in between pitches and seemed to have no confidence in his stuff. It's only one outing, but that performance cannot be encouraging for the Cubs, who went on to lose 4-3 in 16 innings.  

Buerhle turns back clock in first start of season  

Former White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle had an up-and down year in his first season in Toronto in 2013, but on Wednesday, he looked like the pitcher he was five or six years ago.

Buehrle allowed only four hits over 8.2 innings and picked up the win as the Blue Jays defeated Tampa Bay, 3-0. The southpaw struck out 11 and walked just one.

It was just the second double-digit strikeout game of Buehrle's career. The other came during the Sox' World Series year. He fanned a career-high 12 in a 2-1 win over Seattle on April 16, 2005.

I still root for Buehrle, as long as he isn't pitching against the Sox.