As Ken Williams urges new focus, White Sox gamble to beat Rockies
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com June 30, 2011 12:10AM
The White Sox' A.J. Pierzynski connects for his game-winning RBI sacrifice fly in the ninth inning Wednesday night in Denver. | Doug Pensinger~Getty Images
Updated: October 19, 2011 7:23AM
DENVER — The White Sox are lucky, and they know it.
‘‘We’re very fortunate to have a chance to win the division without [having played] even close to our capabilities,’’ general manager Ken Williams told reporters Wednesday in Chicago. ‘‘That I can be thankful for, but I’m certainly not happy. And we’re going to have to start to turn this around quickly.’’
Hours later, the Sox gambled and beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2. Third-base coach Jeff Cox rolled the dice with the score tied in the ninth, sending Carlos Quentin home on A.J. Pierzynski’s short fly to right fielder Seth Smith. Quentin would have been out by plenty if the throw hadn’t skipped past catcher Chris Iannetta.
‘‘We lost in [13 innings] last night, and we got two outs here,’’ Cox said. ‘‘Let’s take a shot at it. And A.J., could you hit a little deeper next time?’’
It was a game of risk for the Sox early on. Sensing a strong start from Ubaldo Jimenez and knowing the Sox lineup has sputtered, manager Ozzie Guillen pulled his infield in with Carlos Gonzalez (triple) on third with one out in the third with starter Mark Buehrle facing Jonathan Herrera. That move paid off when Herrera rapped a grounder to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, freezing Gonzalez. Jason Giambi then flied out to end the inning.
‘‘Overall, I was happiest with that,’’ said Buehrle, who also kept Ryan Spilborghs at third with one out in the seventh when Iannetta popped out and pinch-hitter Chris Nelson tapped one in front of the mound. ‘‘For me, if a guy gets on third with less than two outs, it seems more often than not he scores. I got in that jam twice tonight and got out both times.’’
Buehrle pitched seven innings, allowing home runs to Giambi and Ty Wigginton. Sergio Santos pitched a perfect ninth, striking out Spilborghs and Iannetta to end the game, and the Sox (39-42) climbed to within four games of first-place Detroit in the American League Central.
Having watched Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre post offensive numbers below expectations, Williams said it’s time to stop the pouting.
‘‘We are licking our wounds too much,’’ Williams said. ‘‘At some point you have to say to hell with it, and whatever you’ve done to this point in the season, you have to wipe it away and get after it. We have a chance to still win this thing.’’
The Sox were lucky but also good. Second baseman Beckham was 0-for-3 but started a tough double play with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth. Going to his left on a sharp grounder by Wigginton, Beckham turned quickly and threw to Ramirez to start the DP and get Brian Bruney (1-0) out of the jam.
‘‘That was the key right there,’’ Guillen said. ‘‘That lifted the team up. That’s a hell of a play in a great situation.’’
‘‘Gotta do it, man,’’ Beckham said. ‘‘Gotta pick it and throw it like that till I start swinging the bat better. That was the last place I thought he would hit that ball. I was shocked — I thought he’d pull it. It happened so quick, you don’t even think about it. When it was over, I was like, ‘Whoa, that was huge.’ ’’
Pierzynski, who doubled in a run after Paul Konerko’s RBI single in the fourth, had two RBI. Before the game, he contemplated the Sox’ underachieving first three months. The record doesn’t lie — that’s who they are — but it can change, he said.
‘‘We believe it will happen,’’ Pierzynski said. ‘‘We have to. But it’s going to take a total team effort.’’
Guillen had benched Rios the night before for not running hard on a couple of outs. He said the message was sent to all 25 players, not just Rios, who made a diving catch for the first out of the ninth.
‘‘I expect a lot,’’ Guillen said.
As does Williams.
‘‘The individual numbers may not be what they are accustomed to, but we still have a chance to collectively have a celebration at the end of the year,’’ Williams said. ‘‘And I’d like the focus to be on that and less on the individual numbers.
‘‘But it’s hard to look up at that scoreboard and see numbers you’re not used to seeing when you’re a player who has achieved a lot in this league. I get that. But what I get also is it’s time. It’s time to wipe that away because we’re better than this.’’