Reverence in word, not in deed
White Sox speak softly of Yankees, play them hard
Not saying the White Sox fall under the Yankees' spell or anything, but manager Ozzie Guillen does address Derek Jeter as "God." Gordon Beckham said it would be "cool" to play on the same field as Jeter and the Bombers. And even Paul Konerko warned against the tendency to get "too amped up against them."
Reliever Matt Thornton didn't name his newborn Derek, though possibly because the baby is a girl. And giving up a tying solo homer to former teammate Nick Swisher with two outs in the ninth only begged the question: Couldn't Bobby Jenks have done that?
But in a fitting conclusion to "Mark Buehrle Day" as proclaimed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Dewayne Wise saved the day with the winning single in the bottom of the ninth, knocking in pinch runner Scott Podsednik for the 3-2 victory Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
Wise once again was a late-game defensive replacement, but this time it was his offense that provided the heroics. That, and a brilliant outing by Gavin Floyd, who got a no-decision after going 7 2/3 innings and allowing just one run on four hits and one walk while tying a career high with 10 strikeouts.
"This was really big for us," Wise said. "With the road trip we had, we really wanted to come out and get this first game and get off to a good start. I told [Buehrle] this was Mark Buehrle Day; hopefully we can keep that going for a while."
After a 1-hour, 4-minute rain delay, the victory ended a three-game slide for the Sox and at least temporarily cleansed the sour taste left by a 1-6 road trip.
That the Yankees were the ones who ended up looking like Little Leaguers in an error-plagued seventh only made it sweeter.
"It was a good game for us to battle back and get the win," said Beckham, who was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. "At one point [in the sixth inning], I realized I had to take out Derek Jeter, someone I've watched and respected my whole life and I was like, 'What do I do?'"
He took him out.
"It was pretty special," Beckham said.
Faced with that same decision in the seventh, A.J. Pierzynski didn't give it a second thought, seriously disrupting second baseman Robinson Cano's throw to first on a Carlos Quentin grounder to short for the second error of the inning and go-ahead run for the White Sox.
"That's the reason we won the game besides Floyd's tremendous job," Guillen said. "You always win by good pitching, but we need more than that. We need A.J.'s slide into second base. We don't try to hurt anybody, but we need to come down and try to attack people the way A.J. did today."
"A tremendous job," Guillen said. "Just left one bad pitch to Nick, and obviously Nick is a home run hitter and got hold of one."
Jenks was absent thanks to a kidney stone, though Guillen spared him the public announcement: "He's got some issues, not family," Guillen said of his struggling closer. "He'll be here [Friday]."
The White Sox had some issues coming in as well, and make no mistake, they needed this one. Not just because the Yankees came in for a four-game set having won 11 of 13 since the All-Star break. But because they always seem to be a convenient, if not annoying, measuring stick for the rest of the American League.
"What you have to be careful with [the Yankees] is the same stuff every year, getting too amped up and getting out of your game because you think it's such a big game, because that can work the other way, too, on you," Konerko said. "You try to approach it like any other game but you know you're playing the Yankees. I mean, it's the Yankees."
Of course, there are three more to go for the Sox in this series and a homestand that also includes three games against the Angels and three against the Indians. They're also without shortstop Alexei Ramirez for at least a few more days with a strained ligament in his left ankle.
But this past road trip aside, this is a Sox team that plays up to its competition, and now would be a nice time to assert itself.
"If you told us on Opening Day that we'd be three games back with 60 to go, we'd be happy," Konerko said before the game. "Everyone wants to run away with the division, but that's just not realistic. You have to play mind games with yourself. In 48 hours, we can be right back in it again."
Maybe they can schedule another Mark Buehrle Day.