White Sox rally past Rays in eighth
Three-run inning gives club third straight win
ST. PETERSBURG -- The names of Mark Buehrle and Paris Hilton rarely have been used in the same sentence, and with very good reason. By Buehrle's own admission, his idea of a wild night is sitting at home with his wife, Jamie, and playing with their dogs.
But after picking up his third win in four starts, and helping to engineer the White Sox 5-3 victory over the Devil Rays on Wednesday night before a Chicago-partisan crowd of 10,492 at Tropicana Field, the White Sox ace drew a comical comparison between himself and the socialite who was recently sprung from incarceration.
This comparison dealt more about publicity in the media, via Buehrle's potential contract extension and Hilton's prison term, than the way they live their respective existences.
"I think somebody said me and Paris Hilton's names have been in the paper the most this last week, and I don't know if that's a good thing," said Buehrle with a laugh, after allowing two earned runs on nine hits over seven innings, striking out six and walking three during the White Sox third straight win. "Like I said before, the contract stuff won't affect me one way or another. I'm going out there to pitch and try to win."
"Buehrle is as solid as he can be," added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of his ace, when asked if Buehrle might have been bothered by Wednesday's contract talk, beginning with WSCR 670 AM reporting Buehrle was very close to agreeing to a four-year, $50 million deal. "He [didn't] let anything bother him. He's gone through tougher and harder things before. I think this kid mentally is one of the best in the business."
When Buehrle exited after 114 pitches, the White Sox (32-42) actually faced a 3-2 deficit. They managed only three hits over the first six innings against Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine, but pushed across two runs on four hits in the seventh against the young right-hander and reliever Gary Glover. They took the lead with three more in the eighth against Glover (3-3) and Shawn Camp.
Scott Podsednik lined a single to left off of Glover that Carl Crawford misplayed and Podsednik hustled into a triple to begin the rally. Andy Gonzalez's single to left through a drawn-in infield scored Podsednik with the game-tying run, and Gonzalez moved to second when Jim Thome's high fly ball to right was lost in the ceiling by Jonny Gomes for a single. Camp's wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, and Paul Konerko's two-run double down the third-base line gave relievers Mike MacDougal, Boone Logan and Bobby Jenks (save No. 20) room to work to produce the South Siders' first three-game win streak since May 20-22.
For the third straight game, White Sox hitters reached double-digits in strikeouts and gave free pizza to the fans in attendance -- including Guillen, who presented his game ticket to the media after the victory. For the third straight game, the bullpen was not scored upon, giving the relievers a stretch of nine straight scoreless innings.
"It seems like we are playing well and had the breaks go our way," Buehrle said. "We told our hitters to keep striking out 10 times so we can keep winning. We have been getting clutch hits and our pitching and defense are there. It's all starting to click."
Tampa Bay (33-43) stranded eight runners combined in the second, third and fourth innings alone, making for a little more trying night in Buehrle's mind. But Buehrle made the big pitches when necessary, leaving the bases loaded in the second and third and leaving runners on second and third in the fourth.
"He just knows what he's doing," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon of Buehrle. "He's not an easy guy to get around in those moments. Even when we had him in trouble, I'm sure he never thought as though he was in trouble."
"With the way the first couple of innings were going, I was kind of glad to be able to get into the fifth and sixth innings," Buehrle added. "I was falling behind guys and my pitch count got up there."
As for his ever-changing situation with the White Sox, reportedly going from being traded over the weekend to signing a multi-year deal on Wednesday, the only light Buehrle could shed on the situation after the game was that both Jeff Berry, his agent, and White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn were in St. Petersburg. Buehrle planned to meet with Berry late on Wednesday and joked that the latest rumor he was going to start dealt with his retirement, ending this entire media frenzy.
Guillen claimed to not know any more than Buehrle about the possibility of a new deal. But the White Sox manager sounded hopeful when asked for his gut reaction.
"That's my hope, he's going to sign," Guillen said. "But there are so many things in the middle. So many hard things in the middle. Hopefully we sign him before we get to Chicago. That's everybody's hope. That's the way it is, but you never know.
"It's not what I hear, it's what I read. The way both parties love each other, I think he will sign."
Long-term contracts and big dollar amounts aren't needed for Buehrle to show his devotion to the White Sox. He made that point clear once again when asked if he had talked to White Sox personnel about staying with the organization where he grew up and became a star.
"Everyone knows where my heart is at and where I want to stay and how bad I want to stay here," Buehrle said. "If anyone has a question or thinks I'm going to St. Louis after the season, if I'm a free agent, or if it gets to that point, they are wrong. I want to stay here and do everything I can to stay here."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.