Sale, White Sox close out Twins

Sale, White Sox close out Twins

Sale, White Sox close out Twins
CHICAGO -- Tuesday's series-opening, seven-run loss to the Minnesota Twins was a game to forget for the White Sox.

And judging by the 6-0 shellacking of the last-place Twins administered Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, played before Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and representatives of the Chicago Police Department who were honored before the game and during the seventh-inning stretch, forget is exactly what the White Sox (22-22) did.

It's a defining trait of Robin Ventura's first team, in that the highs don't seem to get too high, and the lows don't seem to linger into the next day.

"These guys are resilient," said Ventura of his second-place squad. "They find a way to come back, and as difficult as yesterday was all the way around, to be able to bounce back and put together a game like this all the way around, pitching and the offense, is nice to see. They're just tough that way."

To paraphrase an old baseball adage, a team's bounce-back ability stands only as strong as its next-game starting pitcher, and Chris Sale (5-2) helped the White Sox have a very short memory. The southpaw needed 97 pitches to cover seven innings, allowing a Joe Mauer single in the first, Trevor Plouffe's single in the fifth, and two walks.

Sale struck out six, but also recorded 11 outs via the ground ball. He pitched in complete sync with catcher A.J. Pierzynski, establishing his fastball, working in the changeup and going a little easier on the slider. It's a slight alteration the hurler has made with his electric stuff since returning to the rotation on May 12 following an 11-day absence due to left elbow soreness.

"Part of pitching is finding a groove and rolling with it," said Sale, who has not allowed more than three runs in any of his eight starts this season. "I felt early that I got into a groove, and A.J. was back there calling one of the best games I've seen him call in a while. It was fun to be out there.

"I felt like I was commanding my fastball well, and I threw the changeup for strikes more so than I have been. A.J. knew that. We used that to our advantage."

Shutting down the Twins (15-28) has never been a problem for Sale, who has held Minnesota hitters to a career .130 average (7-for-54). But Sale faced the Twins for the first time in his career as a starter, and the visitors found out on Wednesday that the White Sox are a better team with Sale in charge of 100 or so pitches.

"Tonight was a night Sale was really tough on us," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He had the ball moving, a nice changeup, a nice breaking ball for the lefties and two different fastballs.

"From that angle, sidearm, that's really tough on lefties, and he ate some righties up. Made some nice pitches. We had what, four hits tonight, so that pretty much tells you."

Aside from Sale's dominance, the next biggest asset for the White Sox was Minnesota's defense, or lack thereof. The Twins committed three errors, leading to only two of the five runs scored off of Scott Diamond (3-1) being earned.

Second baseman Jamey Carroll booted Gordon Beckham's sure-fire double play in the first inning, allowing Adam Dunn to drive in the game's first run with a single to center. Darin Mastroianni's error on Alex Rios' fly ball to right in the sixth sparked a two-run uprising that began with Paul Konerko's single. Pierzynski doubled one run home, and Orlando Hudson's groundout scored the second.

Rios launched a two-run homer on a 0-2 Diamond pitch in the fourth, producing his first since the season's second game in Texas. It was Rios' second and third RBIs since May 12.

Konerko added home run No. 9 in the seventh, pushing his total to 398 homers as a member of the White Sox, and 405 overall. The White Sox captain, who missed most of three games after being hit in the left side of the face with a Jeff Samardzija pitch on Friday at Wrigley Field, is 5-for-8 since returning to the lineup, and is an astonishing 17-for-30 with three homers and seven RBIs during his nine-game hitting streak.

His .381 average gives Konerko a slight edge over Texas' Josh Hamilton (.379) for the American League lead, while his .462 on-base percentage tops all AL hitters.

"It's stupid, honestly," said Sale with a laugh of Konerko's excellence. "It's like he's playing video games."

"You are getting some hits to fall, but you can't let that sway you that you are getting them," Konerko said. "You keep working and grinding."

Cleveland's win over Detroit kept the White Sox 3 1/2 games back in the AL Central, but the White Sox now have a 1 1/2-game lead over the third-place Tigers. They bounced back from a rough Tuesday, which included the funeral for close friend and colleague Kevin Hickey, but that resiliency has been there since Day 1.

"Our best thing all year we've done is we've had some bad losses and walk-off losses, and it's where it could get bad, or let it go and we bounce back," Konerko said. "A lot of that goes to Robin and the staff.

"They're very positive and very, 'What's next?' They don't drag any baggage, good or bad, to the next day. Everybody walks in the next day and it's like ... It's not like we've played [44] games, it's like we've played one game [44] times. It's a good attitude to have."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.