White Sox top Cubs behind Torres' gem
Rookie hurls seven scoreless for first big league victory
CHICAGO -- Exactly 27 games remain on the White Sox 2009 regular-season schedule following Thursday's 5-0 victory over the crosstown rival Cubs at Wrigley Field in a makeup game from a June 16 postponement.
And White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski laid out the plan his group needs to follow in order to get themselves back in the American League Central race and eventually overtake Detroit for the division title.
"We have 27 [games] left, and we're going to try to win 27 games," said Pierzynski, who had two hits in the victory. "It's going to be a tough road. We play a lot of tough teams, but I believe this is a start in the right direction that can get us going and going where we need to be."
This start spoken of by Pierzynski actually began in a most improbable fashion Wednesday afternoon at the Metrodome, when the White Sox were twice down to their last strike against Twins closer Joe Nathan. They eventually rallied for four runs, knocking a shell-shocked Nathan from the game. They carried that momentum against the Cubs (67-65).
Momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher, a tried-and-true baseball cliché, so Thursday's success began with rookie Carlos Torres. The right-hander made his third big league start but certainly had never pitched in as an electric atmosphere brought about by the Crosstown Showdown, even if it was a September makeup between two borderline contenders.
Torres didn't flinch. He gave up just five hits over seven innings, striking out six and not issuing a single free pass. Torres received the customary postgame beer shower from his teammates after picking up his first career victory.
"It's my first one, so it's my best victory," said Torres, who received relief support from Matt Thornton and D.J. Carrasco after throwing 98 pitches. "I just tried to do the best I could and tried to help out our team. As a pitcher, you always think you can do these kinds of things -- you know what I mean? It just ended up going our way today."
"Carlos was awesome," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko. "He just had a great day. He's the story of the day."
The Cubs actually went down fairly quietly, mounting viable scoring threats in just the fourth and the seventh innings. With runners on first and third and one out in the fourth, Torres struck out Alfonso Soriano swinging and retired Jeff Baker on a groundout to second baseman Chris Getz to keep the White Sox ahead, 1-0.
In the seventh, Jake Fox opened with a double to right-center. He stayed at second when Soriano struck out again, but tried to come home on Baker's slow-rolling, one-out single to right.
Dewayne Wise, getting a rare start in right field, charged the grounder and made a near perfect strike to Pierzynski. The White Sox catcher grabbed the throw, which was slightly to his right, and came back toward the plate to easily tag out Fox.
"Just some huge defensive plays behind me," said Torres, putting an extra emphasis on the word huge.
"At that point of the game, I knew they were going to send him," Wise said. "I just told myself, 'Throw the ball cleanly. Just try to throw it through A.J.' And that's what I did."
Wise's throw was a late-game momentum boost, pushed even higher by Soriano's miscue in the top of the eighth. The left fielder slipped trying to field Pierzynski's routine fly ball down the line off Ryan Dempster (8-8), allowing Gordon Beckham to score when the ball fell for a three-base error and setting up a two-run eighth.
"When I slipped, I lost my balance," Soriano said. "I don't make an excuse, but that's the first time it happened that I slipped and missed the ball."
"Thank God, because all summer I've been watching my team doing that," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team scored three unearned runs. "I think we took advantage of that a couple times."
Guillen's crew also took advantage of Derrek Lee's absence, as the Cubs top hitter was with his wife for the birth of their son. This relatively comfortable win gave the White Sox (66-69) back-to-back victories for the first time since Aug. 14-15 in Oakland. The White Sox also held on to 2009 bragging rights over the Cubs, taking the season series, 4-2, and hold an all-time edge of 37-35.
Thursday's victory concluded a four-city, 11-game road trip for the White Sox at 3-8, as they dropped 4 1/2 games in the American League Central standings in the process. Detroit beat Cleveland again, leaving the White Sox seven games behind the Tigers and two behind the idle Twins for second place.
Boston comes to town Friday for a four-game set, as the competition gets decidedly tougher, but the White Sox aren't giving up. With 27 games to play, including six of the final nine against the Tigers, they truly believe anything is possible -- especially if they play as they did against the Cubs.
"We've dug a big hole for ourselves, and we don't have the right to talk about being in something when you are under .500," Konerko said. "That should be our short-term goal, to get back to .500 and just keep grinding away. We have some head-to-heads later in the year, but we are going to have to pick up ground.
"All we can do is control what we can control. That's going out and hustling every day, and if it doesn't work out at the beginning of October, then that's the way it is. We put ourselves in that spot. We could play well, but we are probably going to need some help."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.