06/17/2003 11:00 PM ET
Offense silenced, Colon roughed up
Hitters baffled by Burkett after first inning
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Plenty of the talk coming from the White Sox clubhouse following Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to Boston centered on the perceived large strike zone from home plate umpire Eric Cooper.
The White Sox believe it contributed to the team’s fourth loss in eight games on this current 10-game homestand and helped Red Sox starter John Burkett’s reach a season-high nine strikeouts, eight of them called by Cooper.
Frank Thomas was even ejected from the game prior to the start of the seventh inning for arguing his second straight strikeout in the bottom of the sixth. But Burkett deserves an even greater part of the credit than Cooper.
After allowing four straight doubles in the bottom of the first, the veteran retired the next 18 batters before allowing Carlos Lee’s leadoff bloop single in the seventh. Burkett exited with a two-run lead, having allowed the three runs from the opening quartet of hitters and nothing else.
“He began to move the ball around real well, and he was kind of painting the outside and then bringing the ball back,” said White Sox manager Jerry Manuel of Burkett’s effort before 19,887 at U.S. Cellular Field. “He was doing what Este (Esteban Loaiza) does, in throwing it at you and cutting it across the plate.
“Burkett really frustrated our hitters after the first,” Manuel added.
Along with the four doubles, the opening inning had its share of controversy. The fourth and final double came off the bat of Magglio Ordonez, a drive down the right-field line that appeared to clear the yellow line for a home run.
But first base umpire Tim Timmons ruled the ball hit the pad under the line first and then bounced up and hit the pole. It was the equivalent of bouncing over the fence for a ground-rule double.
Ordonez was halted at second. Lee flew out to left, Jose Valentin struck out and Paul Konerko popped up to short..
“I thought we had a good plan, and I thought our hitters were doing the right things,” Manuel said of the first inning. “Then, boom. We have Lee, Valentin and Konerko and we didn’t get anything.”
The pitching line for White Sox starter Bartolo Colon (6-7) was completely opposite of Burkett’s. After throwing a 12-pitch first inning, Colon was touched for five runs on six hits in the second and third. He had 86 pitches by the fifth, after throwing 84 over eight innings in last Thursday’s game against the San Francisco Giants.
Kevin Millar hit his 11th home run in the second, lining an 0-2 pitch out to left. Trot Nixon followed with his ninth home run, a 400-foot blast on a 1-2 pitch from Colon.
But the most crushing drive came off the bat of Manny Ramirez in the third. With Johnny Damon and Nomar Garciaparra on base, Ramirez smashed Colon’s 0-2 offering into the right-center field stands. Manuel and trainer Herm Schneider came out to check on Colon prior to Ramirez’ home run, but it was nothing more than soreness on the knuckle of his right index finger.
“Colon pitched well, but those guys hit a couple of great pitches out of the park,” said White Sox center fielder Willie Harris. “Those home runs will be hit, and Manny is a tough guy to get out.”
Colon kept the Red Sox at bay over the next three innings, matching a season-high with nine strikeouts. After Lee touched Burkett for the seventh-inning single, the White Sox knocked him out of the game when Joe Crede walked with two outs. But pinch-hitter Armando Rios grounded out on the first pitch from reliever Mike Timlin, ending the inning.
Brian Daubach added his second home run in the eighth inning, beating Timlin on a 3-2 fastball. Daubach replaced Thomas, who splintered his bat in two after slamming it to the ground when called out on strikes in the sixth.
Thomas continued to argue the strike zone as he walked to first in the seventh. Cooper then ejected him, the seventh early exit of Thomas’ career.
“(Cooper) said that he told Frank no more arguing on balls and strikes,” Manuel explained. “As he was going to his position, he continued to argue.
“I looked at some of the balls and strikes on replays in the video room. For the most part, we were frustrated that the ball appeared to be a ball at the beginning of the pitch and ran back across the strike zone. (Burkett) had good stuff, and I had no problem with it.”
Not all of Manuel’s charges agreed. A wide strike zone, such as Cooper’s, can take a team out of its hitting rhythm. It also prevented the White Sox (32-38) from creeping within 5 1/2 games of the first-place Twins, who were crushed by the second-place Royals in Kansas City.
Then again, maybe it’s not so much Cooper as it was Burkett making an early pitching adjustment. It was a tough change for the White Sox to make, going from the hard-throwing Pedro Martinez on Monday to the movement of Burkett’s offerings.
“(Burkett) has been around a long time, and he regrouped and pitched great,” said Daubach, who played with Burkett in Boston. “That team also is hitting (.296), so you can’t hold them down forever.
“But it’s frustrating. Most of the strikeouts were looking and sometimes that happens when a guy is around the plate. When you are hitting the glove, you get a little extra.
“For the most part,” Daubach added, “they were good pitches.”
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.