CHICAGO -- It’s amazing what energy and a little blind faith from the younger generation can do to turn around a group’s fortunes.
The Chicago White Sox won a game Wednesday they would have otherwise given away a year ago, overcoming a replay review that went against them -- as well as some bullpen struggles -- to take a 7-6 decision in 11 innings over the Minnesota Twins.
The White Sox trailed by two runs in the ninth inning, tied the game, and then got away with extending relievers to their limits -- like Daniel Webb’s 48-pitch outing -- before winning it.
Of course there’s no reason to start printing World Series tickets. Sure the White Sox are 2-0, but they won their first two games last year and look where that got them.
And picking on the rebuilding Twins isn’t a reason to think the White Sox are all of a sudden contenders.
But on a cool afternoon on the South Side, it was as if somebody threw open the windows and let out some of the stench from last season.
Wednesday’s spark plug was little Leury Garcia, who essentially ran through the legs of the Twins in the late innings to give the White Sox a comeback victory. His RBI single in the ninth inning got the White Sox within a run, but it was his fly-in-the-ointment 11th inning that won the day.
Not only did Garcia start the 11th inning with a two-strike bunt single down the third-base line, he went to second base on a balk, to third on a wild pitch and then scored the winner on another wild pitch. The White Sox were simply pleased they weren’t the gift-givers for a change.
“You get momentum from that,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There are ways to hit a home run and win a game, and there’s another way to manufacture it and come back.
“Coming back and then winning later, I don’t know how many times we did that last year, not many. You end up doing something that feels new and feels fresh for these guys.”
Paul Konerko made his first appearance of the season, starting the ninth-inning rally with a pinch-hit single off the third-base bag. But he departed immediately for pinch runner Adrian Nieto and grabbed a front-row seat on the bench to watch the kids do their thing.
“You have a lot of guys who are playing hard, playing the game right,” Konerko said. “Like I said in spring training, you come out and try to win a baseball game, but there’s obviously a lot of guys who are trying to establish themselves. This is now, this is happening and they know it. And there’s a lot of hunger there to not make an issue out of it and just be the guys they are.
“There are a lot of talented guys, and I think it’s definitely the start of a good cycle, especially from the position-player side. There’s just a lot of guys that can do some things and the intent is there. That’s the main thing. A lot of guys have talent, but these guys want to be really good.”
After owning the disappointing-loss category last season, it seemed the White Sox had tapped a new source of misery when their first ever regular-season replay review went against them. In the seventh inning, after three runs had already scored, Adam Eaton appeared to catch a fly ball by Oswaldo Arcia, only to have it fall to the ground when he transferred it to his throwing hand.
He tried the move so quickly, though, that replay officials in New York City called it a drop. There was a runner at first base at the time, but White Sox infielders neglected to touch second base in case a force out was necessary. Indications were, though, that the ball was declared dead at the moment the replayable issue surfaced.
The White Sox quickly put it behind them, though, when reliever Webb struck out two batters and left fielder Alejandro De Aza threw out a runner at the plate.
By the time the game ended, the temperatureshad dipped to 32 degrees and what was left of an announced crowd of 10,625 could have fit into four or five luxury suites. But nobody was feeling the chill, not even newcomer Eaton, who played the entire game in short sleeves.
“I think you can feel it in the clubhouse, trying to erase last year,” Eaton said. “As much as we all want to say it's over with, I wasn't here, but I can tell by the guys it was a lot to deal with and it still kind of lingers. To get a great win like this early, and a good win on Monday, we're heading in the right direction. We have to keep it going.”
The White Sox will take aim at their first series sweep of the season on Thursday. They didn’t get their first three-game series sweep in 2013 until late May. Their second didn’t come until August.
Heading in the right direction, indeed.