Precious few witnesses to wackiness in the cold at the Cell
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org | @ricktelander April 3, 2014 10:43PM
Chicago White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton misses a triple hit by Minnesota Twins' Oswaldo Arcia during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Minnesota won 10-9. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty) ORG XMIT: CXS113
Updated: April 3, 2014 11:44PM
They wanted Paulie.
They got Paulie.
One swing. One grounder. Game over.
Hmm. Have I just written haiku?
No, sorry, that was just the end to a 10-9 loss by the White Sox to the Minnesota Twins at cold, wet U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday.
Good ol’ Paul Konerko, who came off the bench the day before against the Twins and singled in the ninth inning to start a rally, didn’t have the mojo working this time.
At 38, the farewell-tour hero has played in two games for the Sox this season and taken two swings of the bat, both at first pitches. At this rate, he’ll have fewer swings for 2014 than for a round of golf.
This unexpected loss was not Konerko’s fault, mind you.
“It was an up-and-down game,’’ said third baseman Marcus Semien, who homered in the eighth to put the Sox up 9-8.
It was up and down. Lead changes and all that. You might have expected the White Sox to hold on to their ninth-inning, 9-8 lead, with closer Matt Lindstrom shutting the door. Instead, Lindstrom got two men out and then gave up an RBI single to Trevor Plouffe and an RBI triple to Oswaldo Arcia. It’s not good when your team is scoring large (seven runs a game for the Sox) but your bullpen has an 8.03 ERA.
At any rate, when I say the people wanted Paulie there at the end with two outs and teammate Dayan Viciedo perched on third with the tying run, I am speaking not of a tidal wave of enthusiasm, but a puddle ripple.
Some of us press guys talked after the game and lamented that we had not divided the stadium into quadrants and done head counts. The announced tickets sold were 11,056. But if there were 5,000 people in the stadium, at any point, or even 1,500 left when Konerko carried that piano on his back as he lumbered toward first, I’ll eat a hat.
Stunningly, this was a first-place, undefeated team coming into the game.
Yes, there was drizzle, and the thermometer hit 33 degrees in the seventh inning, and there was a 19 mph wind out of the east, and it was a work day and school day, and God invented hi-def television to keep us all in our basements until June. But you would think there might be a few thousand people in Chicago who would stumble into the Cell on such a day just to see the exploding pinwheels in center field.
No matter. The White Sox are 2-1, and they’re leaving town for Kansas City so the Cubs can have Friday’s home spotlight all to their little bear selves. It’s for sure more than 5,000 will show up at Wrigley Field for the home opener, if for no other reason than to see the historic concourse urinals.
For the Sox, there is the oddness of Konerko being inserted as a pinch batter for catcher Tyler Flowers, who just so happened to be 4-for-4 on the day. Nobody is second-guessing manager Robin Ventura. Yet.
That will come if the late pitching doesn’t get its act together and the Sox lose a few more games like this one. That is, a game they led 8-5 starting the seventh inning.
The offense seems curiously well-constructed, especially if a normally low-average catcher such as Flowers can keep up the solid work.
There are little guys such as leadoff man Adam Eaton and infielder Leury Garcia, each fast as hell and claiming to be 5-8 tall. Then there are slugging lumberjacks such as 6-3, 255-pound Cuban defector Jose Abreu (2-for-4 with four RBI) and the 6-6, 285-pound “Big Donkey’’ himself, Adam Dunn (home run, two RBI).
Designated hitter Dunn seems to have two performance modes: home run or strikeout, which is weird. But Abreu, the 2011 MVP of the Serie Nacional in Cuba, could be power, speed and variety combined. He blasted a bases-loaded triple off the wall in right-center field in the sixth inning and looked good running all the way.
It’s funny, but frozen games such as this played in front of no one count as much as hot, standing-room-only games in pennant-race September.
“We played our guts out today,’’ game loser Lindstrom said.
Gotta dig a little deeper.