White Sox win with walk-off bunt
After Fields lays down sacrifice, Podsednik scores on error
CHICAGO -- A walk-off bunt doesn't exactly carry the same inherent excitement level or frenzied fan appeal as a blast over the left-field fence to end a particular contest.
But getting down a sacrifice, eventually leading to the White Sox 4-3 victory over the Tigers on Thursday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, seemed to be equally as meaningful for Josh Fields as making impressive ninth-inning contact with a fastball.
Just two innings earlier, with Scott Podsednik on first base and no outs, Fields tried to bunt to move the tying run into scoring position. Fields popped up that effort to catcher Ivan Rodriguez, helping Detroit starter Justin Verlander easily get out of the inning.
Fields bunted on his own in that situation, but he came through when manager Ozzie Guillen actually put on the play with Podsednik on first base and Zach Miner (1-3) on the mound. Miner bobbled the attempt perfectly placed up the first-base line and then threw wildly past second baseman Placido Polanco covering first, allowing Podsednik to race all the way around with the game-winner.
"I'm glad I got it down, that's for sure," said Fields with a smile after sarcastically claiming he leads the Major Leagues in walk-off bunts.
"It felt good," added Podsednik, who opened the ninth with a single to left. "The monkey jumped on my back rounding third, but other than that, it was a great come-from-behind win."
The White Sox (46-56) actually faced a 3-2 deficit following a two-run sixth for Detroit (60-41) against John Danks, punctuated by Mike Hessman's go-ahead RBI single. Danks and Verlander each kept their team in the game, although neither factored in the final decision.
Verlander exited following Tadahito Iguchi's leadoff single in the eighth, with Iguchi scoring the tying run on A.J. Pierzynski's bases-loaded double-play grounder. The hard-throwing right-hander gave up just three hits and three earned runs in seven-plus innings, fanning five.
Danks finished with more of a flourish, striking out Curtis Granderson with one out and runners on second and third in the seventh. He battled through 6 2/3 innings, yielding three runs on six hits while striking out five. But the big pitch to get Granderson showed the continued maturation of a youngster in his 19th Major League start.
"I love it," said Guillen of Danks. "He threw the ball unbelievably good. The only thing I see when he gets behind people and is deep in the count, that's when he gets in trouble. But when he throws strikes and gets ahead in the count, he can do a lot of damage."
"Obviously it feels good to keep us in the ballgame and then to win a game, especially a team like Detroit that we're chasing," Danks added.
Ehren Wasserman followed Danks with 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief, and Bobby Jenks (3-4) used two strikeouts to retire the side in order in the ninth. This strong bullpen work set up the White Sox first home series victory since taking two of three from the A's from May 21-23.
Winning three of the five games played against Detroit cut the Tigers' lead over the White Sox to 14 1/2, a rather immaterial number in the grand scheme of the playoff picture. This strong showing against the Tigers, though, proves how exasperating this season has been for the White Sox, coming on the heels of last week's series victory over the AL Wild Card leader in Cleveland.
"That shows what this ballclub is capable of," said Podsednik, whose team has a 5-4 season edge on the Tigers. "I think that's kind of the way they drew it up in Spring Training, a team that's going to go out there and battle. We did that, came from behind late a couple of times.
"This team has heart. It's just a matter of bringing it out of us, digging down deep and getting it back."
Podsednik's return also gives the White Sox a needed boost of speed they have been missing for most of the season. Whether he's hitting in the customary leadoff slot or lower in the order, Podsednik showed the havoc he can wreak on the basepaths and with the opposing pitcher's mindset.
There would have been less of a chance for Podsednik to turn on the afterburners if not for Fields' sacrifice. In just 46 games as a starter, Fields already has learned the importance of baseball's small ball, and he picked up another important lesson in Thursday's victory.
Only bunt if your manager puts on the sign.
"He didn't call a bunt. I was on my own, and I popped it up," Fields said of his seventh-inning miscue. "That was just being young and dumb, trying to make something happen when I should have been swinging. It's a lot different when you do one on your own than when it's called for a sacrifice. From now on, I don't think I'm going to bunt unless he calls one."
"I told the guys, 'If I [don't] have you bunting, that means I don't want you to bunt,'" Guillen said. "But I have to give credit to this kid. He's come a long way to be a good bunter. In the Minors, he was a power hitter batting third, an RBI guy. But every time we have that situation, he comes through for us."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.