CHICAGO – Look who’s feeling good about themselves again.
The White Sox took a battering ram to the New York Yankees in a 9-4 victory Friday night moments after an on-field celebration that had the team’s own 2005 World Series trophy matched with the Bears’ 1986 Super Bowl trophy, one of the Bulls’ trophies from the 1990s and the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup from last spring.
The message was clear: The Yankees might have 27 World Series titles, including the most recent one last season, but the White Sox are surrounded by championship runs themselves, even if most of them didn’t happen at 35th and Shields.
Merely a .500 team since the All-Star break when Friday night’s game began, there might have been no better time for a championship history lesson and the arrival of the Yankees, who have that inherit quality of giving teams hope when they lose.
It didn’t hurt that Blackhawks National Anthem singer Jim Cornelison was also on hand, whipping the crowd into a frenzy moments before first pitch and sending chills down the spines of the players.
“The anthem was great; that was pretty cool,” said Paul Konerko, a noted hockey fan and former Phoenix Coyotes season-ticket holder. “And it’s always a little different atmosphere when the Yankees are in town. The guys responded well.”
Even manager Ozzie Guillen was moved at the anthem event that is usually reserved for the hockey team that plays in his neighborhood.
“I’ve been wearing this uniform for a long time and I never remember, even in the World Series, the playoffs, the last game with the Minnesota Twins, that people got so pumped up over the National Anthem,” Guillen said. “That was special. Seeing the people get that into the game, that was outstanding. If you don’t get motivated by that, you can’t get ready for any game. It was great.”
The current series against the Yankees was one of a number of matchups over the final five weeks that made it look like the White Sox were in for a rough ride. There are also two series left with the Red Sox, a West Coast trip to Oakland and Anaheim andthat huge three-game matchup with the first-place Twins Sept. 14-16.
It sure looked as if the White Sox felt like they were on equal footing with their opponent, but maybe Friday’s impressive victory, behind the pitching of big-game stalwart Freddy Garcia, didn’t have anything to do with famous trophies or storied franchises. It could have had its roots in the news earlier in the day when the White Sox won a waiver claim on the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez.
As far as White Sox players know, Ramirez might never show up at their front door with his dreadlocks freshly shorn per a team edict from chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. But knowing management hasn’t given up could have been the most important signal of all for a team that has looked sluggish ever since making their massive pre All-Star rush just to get back in contention.
Maybe their pounding of struggling Yankees starter A.J. Burnett was akin to taking a third grader’s milk money, but those were still Yankees uniforms out there worn by players who did enter tied for first place in the rugged American League East.
“I think games like this are special game,” Guillen said. “You see a lot of people in the stands and you play New York and you play against good pitching. You better be prepared for those games.”
In the end, though, it was that trophy ceremony, though, that everybody kept talking about. It represented more about being a champion to the White Sox than the uniforms across the field. And perhaps that was the point.
“Definitely anytime you have the World Series champs come into town, it’s gonna be packed and there’s gonna be a lot of excitement,” said Juan Perre, who had two more hits and two runs scored Friday and has hot delivered a hit in 30 of his last 32 games. “It didn’t hurt, that’s for sure, having that excitement with the trophies out. The guys who have been here saw the ’05 highlights. It gets you going a little bit. It turned out to be a pretty good night.”
Said A.J. Pierzynski: “ I think the trophies were probably the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time to have all four of them here. To see them all together was cool. It was a fun game, great, and a big excited crowd.”
Garcia overcame his own first-inning blunder when he threw away a ball in the first inning allowing Yankees leadoff man Brett Gardner to make it all the way to third base after an infield hit. He ended up scoring, but the White Sox came back with four runs of their own in the first inning and were able to run off and hide.
“To me, when Freddy has a two, three, four run lead then he can throw breaking ball 3-2,” Guillen said.
“He can make his pitch without saying 'I can't walk this guy.' When you do that, you have the freedom to go with the flow of the game and I think it makes him a better pitcher.”
Not all news was positive. Left-handed reliever Erick Threets left Friday’s game with an unknown elbow injury. X-rays were negative and he has an MRI scheduled for Saturday. If Threets’ injury requires a disabled-list stint, rookie Chris Sale will be the only left-hander remaining in the bullpen.
By the numbers
100: Consecutive games the White Sox went since they last batted around in the first inning like they did while scoring four runs against the Yankees on Friday. Before that, they last did it May 5 against the Kansas City Royals.
“That’s what I expect. That’s why I get upset when I don’t get on base, like the [Wednesday’s] game against Baltimore when I didn’t get on base, didn’t move the ball, got shutout and we had a bad loss. I take a lot of pride in scoring runs and being part of it. Hopefully I’m in the middle of it.” – Pierre, on collecting two more hits, the seventh time in his last nine games he has delivered at least two base hits.
White Sox left-hander John Danks (12-8, 3.31 ERA) will face the Yankees on Saturday, carrying into the game a 5-1 record and a 2.89 ERA over his last nine starts. He is 2-0 in 12 1/3 career innings pitched against the Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field. In 17 of Danks’ 26 starts he has allowed two earned runs or less and has allowed one earned run or less in five of his last nine outings.
Danks will be opposed by Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia (17-5, 3.02) has won each of his last four starts and is tied for the major-league lead in victories. He has allowed three or fewer earned runs and pitched at least six innings in each of his last 16 starts, the longest such single=season stretch by a Yankees pitcher in franchise history.