DETROIT –- The White Sox’s newest identity: Masters of the comeback.
It happened again Monday at Detroit, following the same script the Sox have been trying to perfect since starting this road trip in Cleveland and Boston.
The trip has featured five late-inning run-scoring outbursts, four of them which rallied the team from a deficit. Monday’s 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers came after the White Sox trailed to start the eighth inning.
The White Sox now have a seven-game winning streak, just four off their season-high of 11 that started their run back into contention before the All-Star break.
“Great game, man. Great game, great game to watch,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I’m a baseball fan and that was a lot of action there, a lot of movement, a lot of decisions to make. A lot of good things happened today.”
Good things for the White Sox indeed. Like left-hander Chris Sale, who pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to pick up his first major-league victory. There was Manny Ramirez’s third single of the game to start the 10th inning, providing the base runner that would bring home the game-winning run. Finally, there was the hot-hitting A.J. Pierzynski, who delivered the RBI single to put the White Sox on top for good.
“I don't know. I mean we're just finding ways to win games,” Pierzynski said. “We're battling; we're not giving at-bats away. Nobody's panicking. Everyone's sticking with their plan. It was a great win. It was a good ballgame, both teams played really hard and both teams battled.”
It was good and necessary since the Minnesota Twins also won Monday afternoon, keeping the White Sox 3 ½ games back in the division. The White Sox have gained just one game in the standings during their seven-game win streak.
Somebody joked in the press box that the White Sox and Twins are so hot that they will manage to sweep each other next week when the teams meet in a showdown series at U.S. Cellular Field.
The reality is that something has to give. So is it possible that the White Sox’s winning ways might somehow get into the heads of the Twins soon?
“I don’t think they even think about us to be honest with you,” Guillen said. “They worry about their game, they play their game. They should worry about them and not worry about us. We’re the ones that have to worry about them, we’re behind them. In the meanwhile, make sure we concentrate on one game at a time and see what happens.”
If Sale can keep forgetting that he was taking college classes just a few months ago and continue to deliver blazing fastballs and nasty breaking balls from his narrow frame, the White Sox will be in business. Closer Bobby Jenks is rounding into form, but he was given another day off Monday after closing two victories Saturday.
“This is far beyond what I thought where I was going to be right now,” said Sale, who got the game ball and the scorecard in honor of his first victory, but wouldn’t comment when asked if he got the traditional beer shower. “I figured I would get a few chances, up five [runs], down five, stuff like that. It’s been awesome. I thank them for how much trust they put and have in me. It’s very gratifying.”
It’s not hard to keep going to the 21-year-old when he does things like he did Monday -- retiring all eight batters he faced while striking out three.
“Considering he was in college three months ago, for him to be able to do what he's done is pretty darned amazing,” Pierzynski said. “You don't see too many guys that are able to do that, especially right out of college, come in the middle of a pennant race and go out and dominate big-league hitters the way he has. He's got a chance to be pretty special. You can see why he was drafted as high as he was.”
By the numbers
13: Number of games in Pierzynski’s hitting streak. He not only had the go-ahead single in the 10th inning, he had a two-run single in the second inning. He is batting .411 (23-for-56) during the streak.
“I think everybody knows what kind of impact Manny can make in any lineup that you put him in. He’s going to make guys a lot better. You have to think about the pitches you make to the guys in front of him and the guys that is behind him. Every time he’s on the on-deck circle, he’s just a threat. He’s here. He’s doing his job. He’s making contact and he’s getting some hits. Some important hits so far. I think that’s what everyone is expecting of Manny.” –- Omar Vizquel on the impact of Manny Ramirez, who had three singles Monday and is 7-for-16 (.438) with the White Sox so far.
White Sox right-hander Freddy Garcia (11-5, 4.82) will return to the mound after leaving his last start early because of a stiff lower back. He is just 2-2 with a 6.00 ERA over his last eight starts but is 8-2 with a 4.42 ERA over his last 17. In four starts against the Tigers this season he is 2-0 with a 4.01 ERA. He is 8-0 with a 2.47 ERA over his last 10 starts in Comerica Park.
Garcia will be opposed by Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander (14-8, 3.61), who is coming off a start against the Twins when he gave up six runs on 10 hits over six innings, but ended up with a no decision. He is sixth in the American League in strikeouts with 172.