Offensive outburst leads Sox over Twins
Crede supplies two of four home runs for the South Siders
CHICAGO -- Although he doesn't always get enough credit for being a truly knowledgeable student of the game of baseball, the following statement certainly has been proven accurate where Ozzie Guillen is concerned during the 2008 season.
When the White Sox manager talks, his players not only listen, but they seem to respond.
"I want some offense, they make me shut up," said Guillen with a laugh, after watching his team knock out 16 hits, including four home runs and featuring five players with at least two hits, during a 10-6 victory over the Twins on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field. "I got some offense.
"The wind blowing out is going to help us get better offensively because we have some guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark," Guillen added.
For the series opener of this four-game wraparound set with the second-place Twins (31-30), the wind was blowing out at 22-to-38 mph. Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn (4-4) soon witnessed the after-effects of such gusts.
Minnesota grabbed an early 3-0 lead off of Javier Vazquez, who improved to 6-4, despite giving up four runs on nine hits, while throwing 109 pitches over 5 1/3 innings. That deficit was erased during a six-run fifth inning, a rally in which the White Sox scored six times on just eight pitches.
Nick Swisher took a called strike before singling to center. Joe Crede hit the next pitch for a single to left, one of his four hits for the game, raising his average to .286. Alexei Ramirez beat out a bunt on the next pitch to load the bases and Orlando Cabrera hit the ensuing Blackburn offering for a run-scoring single to left.
A.J. Pierzynski ripped Blackburn's second pitch to right for a two-run double, ending Blackburn's evening and bringing in reliever Juan Rincon. Carlos Quentin launched Rincon's first pitch for a three-run home run to right, his 16th of the year, clearing the fence as it grazed the glove of Minnesota right fielder Michael Cuddyer.
That's what would be called a most efficient beat down. Crede homered twice, giving him 12 overall, while Jermaine Dye also went deep. The White Sox were so solid on offense that they didn't strike out in a game for the first time since Sept. 29, 2005, when they clinched the American League Central in Detroit.
It's the high level of production that hitting coach Greg Walker and his charges hoped to find upon their return to U.S. Cellular, where the team has hit 12 home runs during a four-game winning streak to open this seven-game homestand.
"Obviously, tonight was a great night to hit, especially in some areas of the ballpark," Walker said. "I've been here long enough where I've seen this ballpark work to our advantage and this crowd work to our advantage. We can really take advantage of this because we are home a lot this month."
"We're getting those big hits now," added Crede, who missed Thursday's contest with a bruised right wrist, but returned with a bang on Friday. "I just think that's what it's going to take for us -- getting those big hits. We definitely don't have a problem with getting guys on. It's just a matter of getting those big hits. We've been able to do that in the first four games of the homestand."
Pummeling the Twins put the White Sox eight games over .500, at 34-26, for the first time since the last day of the 2006 season. Their lead in the American League Central matches the White Sox biggest division advantage of the 2008 campaign, at 3 1/2 games, and evens their ledger at 4-4 against Minnesota.
Friday's outburst on offense, following a trio of strong showings against the Royals, also gave Walker a chance to look back with a little humor at this past week's turmoil. As Guillen mentioned, he asked for the White Sox to provide a little offense in a forceful manner following last Sunday's loss to the Rays, mentioning Walker by name in the rant.
There appeared to be some residual anger on Walker's part in the ensuing two or three days, as Guillen's diatribe was broken down and analyzed, and then broken down and analyzed 1,000 more times. But according to Walker's comments Friday, it's all part of life within the White Sox family.
"I'll tell you this, and Ozzie knows this, too," Walker said, "I love Ozzie like a brother. I love his family and he loves my family. We've been close for a long time.
"It happened, I don't know. I'm kind of at a loss for words. It's a non-issue when you get down to it. He really believes in this team, and I do too.
"If Ozzie Guillen didn't love me, I would have been fired last year," Walker added. "It's that simple. I blame Jerry Reinsdorf for hiring all of us. We are a little dysfunctional around here."
Reinsdorf actually spoke briefly about this week's off-the-field melodrama during his pregame talk with the media focused on Doug Collins and the Bulls coaching vacancy. The White Sox chairman asked the reporter who asked the question about his baseball team if he was married.
When he responded in the affirmative, Reinsdorf asked the reporter if he got along with his wife all the time.
"Not as often as I'd like, I'm sure," the reporter said.
"So, that's all. That's all," Reinsdorf said.
Apparently, the family that argues together, wins together, and now also slugs the baseball with authority together.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.