White Sox savoring a Central surprise

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 14, 2012 - 11:28 PM

Chicago has shocked everyone by camping in first place, and A.J. Pierzynski has been a big reason why.

hide

Chicago White Sox' A.J. Pierzynski scores on a single by Alexei Ramirez in the sixth inning off Minnesota Twins' Kyle Waldrop in a baseball game Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Minneapolis.

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

A White Sox team predicted to lose 95 games this year by Sports Illustrated arrived at Target Field on Friday sitting right where it has for most of the season -- first place.

But catcher A.J. Pierzynski wasn't puffing out his chest, bragging about how this team has proved prognosticators wrong.

"If I was an outsider looking at our team after the year we had last year, I could see exactly where they were coming from," Pierzynski said before Chicago's 6-0 victory over the Twins. "[Jake] Peavy was hurt. We lost [Mark] Buehrle. Our bullpen was super young. We had a bunch of hitters coming off not-so-great years."

The Tigers were consensus favorites to run away with the American League Central, but they've spent the season underachieving, and with 2 1/2 weeks remaining, the White Sox lead Detroit by one game in a two-team dogfight.

Chicago has five former Twins on its roster. Pierzynski and Jesse Crain are thriving. Francisco Liriano, Orlando Hudson and Philip Humber? Not so much.

Liriano is 2-1 with a 5.53 ERA since getting traded July 28 and wound up in the bullpen after issuing 15 walks in his past three starts. He made a relief appearance Tuesday, and all three batters he faced reached base.

The White Sox listed him as their scheduled starter for Friday, but when Thursday's game against Detroit was postponed, they gave Friday's start to Cy Young candidate Chris Sale. Liriano didn't expect to start in this series when he arrived at Target Field, and he didn't sound too disappointed.

"We're in a situation right now where we have to use our best guy, whoever's pitching better," Liriano said. "I've been in the bullpen before, so it's not something new to me."

Shortly after Liriano said this, he learned he'd be starting Saturday. Manager Robin Ventura said, after a long talk on the plane, the team decided to give Jose Quintana two days of extra rest before facing Detroit in Monday's make-up game.

Liriano always tantalized the Twins with his potential but frustrated them with his inconsistency.

"I don't have the frustration, but you see he's got great stuff," Ventura said. "We've still got time to see it. That's the way I look at it."

Meanwhile, Pierzynski is batting .280 with a career-high 26 home runs. During spring training, he shared a residence with his former Twins teammate Doug Mientkiewicz, who works as a hitting coach in the Dodgers organization.

One night they were out to dinner, and Pierzynski predicted he was going to hit 20 home runs. His previous career high was 18.

"[Mientkiewicz] thought it was funny," Pierzynski said. "But it was just something I figured out last year, something with my hand positioning. It's a nice feeling now knowing I can go up there at any time and hit a home run.

"In the past, everything had to be perfect for me to hit one. This year, I can walk up there and feel dangerous."

He's not alone. The White Sox are the only team in the majors that has five players with at least 20 home runs -- Pierzynski, Adam Dunn (38), Alex Rios (23), Paul Konerko (22) and Dayan Viciedo (20).

With Dunn and Peavy back in All-Star form and Rios vastly improved, the White Sox are reminding people how much talent they wasted last year. Sale has given them a starting pitcher capable of hanging with Justin Verlander on his best night.

The other difference is Ventura. Chicago's eight seasons under former manager Ozzie Guillen included the 2005 World Series title and another AL Central crown in 2008, and things never were dull because of Guillen.

Pierzysnki said it's hard to measure how much of an impact a manager makes, but said, "[Ventura's] definitely been a calming influence on a lot of guys.

''He's been the same every day. He's himself, just like Ozzie was Ozzie. You don't want a manager to be somebody he's not. Robin's more laid back, but players respect him and play for him."

Indeed, they're playing a lot better than people expected.

  • related content

  • Another beauty from Sale maintains White Sox's lead

    Friday September 14, 2012

    With Justin Verlander tossing seven innings in Detroit's 4-0 victory in Cleveland on Friday night, White Sox lefthander Chris Sale held serve, blanking the Twins for six innings in a...

  • Friday's Twins/White Sox game recap

    Friday September 14, 2012

    Chris Sale allowed just three hits, with five strikeouts and no walks, over six scoreless innings.

  • CHICAGO 6, TWINS 0

    Up next: 12:10 p.m. today

    vs. Chicago • Target Field • TV: FSN

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 100 4th Qtr 1:05
LA Lakers 101
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 46 2nd Half 7:23
Texas-El Paso 41
Hawaii 55 2nd Half
Chaminade 32
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 78 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 45
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you like the Ervin Santana signing by the Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close