Updated: October 29, 2011 12:34AM
Philip Humber didn’t have All-Star stuff, and he still led the White Sox to a 1-0 victory on Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Which is a big reason why catcher A.J. Pierzynski almost demanded that Humber be named to the American League All-Star team today, and pitching coach Don Cooper called Humber’s seven scoreless innings Saturday one of his best outings in a remarkable season.
“If Phil Humber’s not on the All-Star team — and he deserves to be on the All-Star team — there shouldn’t be an All-Star Game,’’ Pierzynski said. “Because he’s been that good for us, stepping in for guys that have been hurt and really being the guy that’s pitched great for us from Day 1.’’
Leading the Sox to their fourth consecutive win and second in a row against the Cubs, the Sox (42-42) finally got to .500 as Humber (8-4) lowered his ERA to 2.69.
“Listen, he’s pitched a lot of good games, but this one is way up there for me,’’ Cooper said, “because he didn’t have anything rolling. That’s the sign of a guy making the next step into being a really solid guy. A game like that, in a big setting, big arena, Cubs, [hot] weather and all this stuff, what he did was impressive.’’
Humber fell behind hitters early on, but he kept the ball down and was bailed out by double-play grounders in each of the first three innings.
“I don’t know how A.J. knew what to call back there because I didn’t have anything working,’’ Humber said. “As the game wore on, we kind of figured out that my changeup was getting some weaker swings, and it got us out of some jams. I just kept mixing it up, and the last couple innings I was making better pitches and had a little better curveball, which I didn’t have at all to start the game. It was just a battle out there, to be sure.’’
With Cubs starter Matt Garza having better stuff and no-hitting the Sox through five, Humber found a way. In a 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals last Sunday, Humber said he had much better stuff but got beat on a bad home-run pitch.
“Today I didn’t make the mistake that cost us the game,’’ he said.
Humber struck out four and walked three. Three of the five Cubs’ hits were infield singles, including a bunt by Carlos Pena who laid one down toward third base, which was unoccupied with an infield shift on.
“He wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him, but to maintain, not lose focus and battle, not only the opponent but the [warm] weather, it just continues,’’ Cooper said.
“He’s certainly an All-Star for us. I’d like to think he’ll get recognized, but we’re in it to win championships, not personal stuff. But he certainly deserves consideration. That’s all that really matters.’’
Humber’s struggle after being a No. 3 overall draft pick by the New York Mets is well-documented. His lows as a professional are what keep him on an even keel during this 2011 high, he said. That he has been the Sox’ best starter in a deep rotation after making the team as a fifth starter is one of Chicago’s best baseball stories. Humber’s 2.32 ERA since April 25 is the sixth-lowest in the AL in that span behind Erik Bedard, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Josh Beckett and James Shields.
“Anybody would like to [make the All-Star Game], but at the same time there are a lot of guys having good years,’’ Humber said. “Where I came from, I’m just thankful to be here and to pitch in the big leagues. Honestly, that’s the furthest thing from my mind.’’
“I hope he does,’’ Guillen said. “That would be great for baseball and great for the kid. This has been so great for us that it’s been unbelievable. Today is the day he didn’t have much stuff and he still won the battle. Hopefully he does make the All-Star team. Why not?”
After throwing 114 pitches, Humber turned the ball over to left-hander Matt Thornton, who pitched two perfect innings for his third save. The Sox have beaten the Cubs 15 times in the last 20 crosstown games, including four of five this season.