Facing “King Felix” Hernandez is never an easy task. But with a revamped lineup featuring five lefthanded hitters against the tough righty, the Sox rose to the occasion and defeated the 2010 Cy Young Award winner and the Mariners this afternoon, 4-3. Alex Rios delivered the big blow with a two-run homer in the sixth inning, his second blast in as many games. Conor Gillaspie, in his first start in a Sox uniform, tripled and scored on a Hector Gimenez sacrifice fly in the fifth. The fourth Sox run scored in the seventh on a Alejandro De Aza sac fly that scored Gillaspie, who followed up his key triple with a single and moved to third on an Alexei Ramirez double.
Pitching-wise, starter Dylan Axelrod was outstanding in 5.2 innings of work, allowing only one unearned run on three hits. Donnie Veal (who got credit for the victory), Nate Jones and Jesse Crain ended the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, respectively, by inducing key outs. Addison Reed recorded his third save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
While Spring arrived in the third inning today with temperatures reaching 65 degrees, the windy conditions were the closest you can get to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.
It was very cold last night, but not necessarily the coldest day anyone could remember around here.
“When I went out to the mound to get (Matt) Lindstrom last night,” Sox manager Robin Ventura laughed this morning, “I got out there and thought, “Man, it’s really cold out here.'”
But Ventura recalls a night game when the Sox faced Roger Clemens.
“It was like last night but even colder,” he said. “We sent the batboys out to buy tennis racquet grips for the bats.”
PK Climbing the Ladder
With his base hit last night, Paul Konerko moved past Frank Thomas into sole possession of third place on the all-time White Sox hit list with 2,137. Only Hall of Famers Luke Appling (2,749) and Nellie Fox (2,470) rank above Paulie.
The Third Man
Since most teams don’t carry a third catcher on their roster, one lucky position player is always designated as the team’s “third catcher” and spends time in spring training and during the season honing his emergency skills behind the plate. For the Sox this year, it is Gillaspie.
At one point in the 1990s, it was Robin…”for about 20 minutes,” the skipper joked.
Ventura described a game where the Sox started a man down. Ron Karkovice was on the DL and Mike “Spanky” LaValliere gave it a go but a few innings into the game, warned he might not make it nine innings.
A quick look up and down the bench showed few candidates. RV volunteered.
“A lefty was pitching, so I wasn’t playing that day,” he recounts. “I put on the gear and they drove me around the tunnel to the bullpen in a golf cart. I went out and Mark Salas gave me a quick tutorial on how to catch. So I’m down in the bullpen catching and apparently (Sox GM) Ron Schueler saw me. He called down and said, ‘Get him out of there.'”
And that’s how Robin’s career as an emergency catcher lasted 20 minutes.
I told him he should have put the equipment on and then make a dramatic run out to the bullpen.
Beginning tomorrow, the White Sox will commemorate their 1983 American League West division championship by wearing ’83 replica uniforms for every Sunday home game. Those “Winning Ugly” Sox, managed by Tony LaRussa, won 99 games and finished the season 20 games ahead of the second-place Kansas City Royals.
Here are Reed and coach Harold Baines, one of the stars of that ’83 team, modeling the vintage unis along this year’s retro racers. They are “Racing Pudge” (Carlton Fisk), “Racing Harold” and “Racing Kitty” (Ron Kittle). Fisk and Kittle, of course, were also key cogs on the ’83 team with Gary, IN native Kittle winning the A.L. Rookie of the Year award.
When you sit down tonight to watch the NCAA Final Four semifinal games, you might hear the familiar voice of White Sox PA announcer Gene Honda, who once again will miss a few Sox games this homestand to call another NCAA championship.
A Day to Remember
Today was pretty special for Sox backup catcher Hector Gimenez, a switch-hitter who was in the lineup today against Hernandez. His Dad was here from Venezuela and it was the first time the senior Gimenez saw his son play in the major leagues. Hector delivered with a key sac fly.
A happy 49th birthday to Ken Williams. A piece of the famous Levy carrot cake was delivered in the second inning to help him celebrate the occasion.
Quote(s) of the Day
Robin on Axelrod’s performance:
“Ax was great. He did what he needed to do to get us to that point, then Rios with a big homer. He showed he could pitch with anybody.”
RV on Gillaspie’s day:
“He looked good today. For Conor, he wants to be a storm chaser, it’s a perfect day for him…He’s a tough kid, plays hard and has a compact swing that has a lot of pop with it, too.”
Play of the Day
The Rios homer, but honorable mention goes to Gillaspie and Axelrod
White Sox vs Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field (1:10 p.m., CT, WGN) in the rubber game of the series. Probable starters: Chris Sale for the Sox, Hisashi Iwakuma for Seattle.
Did You Know…
…that Jake Peavy, who will officially be presented with his 2012 Rawlings Gold Glove Award” before tomorrow’s series finale vs. the Mariners, is the third pitcher (sixth time) in White Sox history to win the award, joining lefthanders Jim Kaat (1974-75) and Mark Buehrle (2009-11).
Photo of the Day
Dylan excels while “Blowin’ in the Wind.”