Commentary

White Sox not raising white flag

South Siders have momentum

Originally Published: June 28, 2009
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

Ozzie Guillen couldn't shut up Sunday.

Guillen seemed more voluble, more energetic than normal. While Lou Piniella looked like he'd rather emcee the Bradley family reunion than talk to reporters about the same old stuff again, it would have taken a pool of typists to transcribe everything Guillen said in front of reporters.

Maybe he dipped into some old-fashioned "leaded coffee" in the clubhouse or maybe he just wanted to deliver his A-material to his base, the Ozzie-loving, Chicago media.

Guillen's White Sox were just as dynamic Sunday, drilling the Cubs 6-0 in a wild game that included a steal of home on a suicide squeeze attempt, a run scored on the infield fly rule, a couple of home runs and a couple of bean balls. Basically, everything you'd want to see in a crosstown game -- if you're a Sox fan, that is.

This win capped off two good series in a row for the South Siders and gave the Sox a 3-2 lead in the city series this year. Most important, the Sox are going into a big week with a head of steam. The Sox (37-38) have won six of eight, and four of six at home, to improve to 20-20 at a pretty unfriendly U.S Cellular Field.

All of a sudden, the White Sox, who couldn't hit at home and couldn't pitch on the road, don't look like future sellers.

Still, Guillen sounded like a forlorn fan when someone asked him if the Sox had finally turned the corner in their cornfield maze of a season.

"No, because they've got to show me better," Guillen said. "Every time I feel that way, my heart's been broken, big-time. … I think we're [close] to getting there, but I don't want to think about that yet, because I don't want to have a broken heart."

Guillen started his talk-a-thon around 10 a.m., calling out a particularly nettlesome reporter who was unnecessarily gabbing up a player, which quieted and then cracked up a packed clubhouse.

Then he explained, in gory detail, the difference between Venezuelan prisons and U.S. "correctional facilities," and then more than an hour after his scheduled media session, he was still going, entertaining a group of reporters about the differences between Sox fans and Cubs fans, and in a particularly funny stretch, about his own sons' experiences in the Wrigley Field dating pool.

Frank Thomas, chilling in the Sox dugout before his temporary TV duties began, was smiling like he just got a free-agent deal, cracking up at his onetime antagonist's routine.

As reporters finally started walking out of the Sox clubhouse around 4:30 p.m., Guillen was still going. Wearing his Cubby blue "Ozzie mows Wrigley Field" T-shirt, Guillen was yukking it up with Sunday's losing pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, who hit one of his players with a purpose pitch just an hour or so before.

Guillen has every reason to be wired, just high on life, because his team is alive and hitting, and looking pretty good. They're not world beaters by any means, but they won back-to-back series against the best team in the National League (the Dodgers) and the most frustrating (the Cubs).

The Sox put together an all-around good game and kept pace with AL Central leader Detroit (five games up on the Sox) and Minnesota (four), which both won Sunday. The Sox go to Cleveland and Kansas City this week, with the potential to gain some ground in the division and finally move back over .500. The Sox have hit better on the road -- they were second in the AL in road batting average at .280, while hitting .227 at home, going into Sunday's game. Part of the reason the Sox are only 17-18 on the road is their 4.38 road ERA.

"We have to go out there and prove we're still in it and play good baseball and not worry where [general manager Kenny Williams] or the front office people think this team is going," said Jermaine Dye, who hit his 18th homer Sunday. "We're the ones who have to make those decisions for them, and hopefully put ourselves in contention down the stretch."

The Sox have been short Carlos Quentin's bat, and even as he works to return, the team's offense is clicking because of the continuity between the bottom and top of the order.

Chris Getz ended an 0-for-24 slump with two hits and scored on a steal of home in a wild sixth inning, Gordon Beckham is hitting .300 over his past 13 games and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Getz to third before his steal, and Dewayne Wise is hitting .368 with two triples, two doubles and three RBIs in his past seven games.

"For me the key is the seventh, eighth and nine hitters," Guillen said. "When those guys can help the big boys, we're going to get better. That's why you're going to see a lot of things: bunts, hit-and-runs, squeezes. A lot of things that come up in my mind, I'm going to do it, because I'm going to help the guys in the middle of the lineup."

Scott Podsednik and Alexei Ramirez have been fearsome at the top. Podsednik had four hits (including a homer) Saturday and Ramirez went 3-for-5 with a two-run shot Sunday. Ramirez is hitting .267 with 10 homers and 38 RBIs.

"Alexei has impressed me with the way he's hitting lately," Guillen said. "He went from hitting .095 to .270, almost. Sometimes his problem is he's carrying his bat to shortstop. But he's going to be my shortstop as long as he wants to be."

Behind Ramirez's erratic ways, the Sox's defense has been way too sloppy for the past week, but the team turned two double plays behind a spot-on John Danks, who actually made the one error on a pick-off move to first. With two outs in the top of the sixth, and the Sox up 3-0, Ramirez made a nice diving stop between third and shortstop, and threw out Derrek Lee at third with two outs and the bases loaded. Beckham, a fledgling third baseman, covered the bag perfectly on the play.

"That was huge," Beckham said. "Right there, I think the momentum we got from that, I think that propelled us through the rest of the game. If they scored there, I think it would've been the same Sox-Cubs game we've seen the last five times we've played them."

The Sox scored two in the bottom of the inning as Zambrano unraveled. Getz opened with a double to right, advanced to third on Beckham's bunt and scored on a suicide squeeze attempt as Zambrano threw hard and wide on a poorly executed pitchout. Because of Zambrano's wildness, the official scorer ruled it a steal, even though the hitter, Wise, was trying to bunt.

"When I saw this guy taking off I was trying to tell [catcher Geovany Soto], 'Get out, get out.' But it was too late," Zambrano said.

Then Big Z hit Wise in the posterior, nearly causing a dugout-emptying situation. Wise stole second, and Zambrano walked Podsednik before leaving to a cascade of boos.

Piniella then went with Rule V draft pick David Patton, who gave up a single to Ramirez. The Sox made it 5-0 on a high dropped fly by Ryan Theriot. The umpires called the hitter, Dye, out on the infield fly rule, but Wise scampered home after Theriot dropped the ball.

Guillen halfheartedly went out to argue they called the infield fly rule too early. But for the first time, he didn't really have anything to talk about.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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