White Sox come back to end Orioles' run
Putz nails down save; Pierzynski injures left ankle
BALTIMORE -- In need of a little closer controversy to spice up these last two months of the 2010 Major League Baseball regular season?
Well, if that's the case, you will have to look somewhere other than the White Sox -- at least for the immediate future.
J.J. Putz finished out Saturday's 4-2 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards, picking up his third save of the season. But he followed Matt Thornton to the mound because Bobby Jenks felt stiffness in his back as he warmed up late in Friday night's series opener.
Closer controversy diffused, right? Actually, not quite, which is the reason for the caveat.
"The way Bobby was throwing lately, we got options out there," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Jenks, who has a 10.56 ERA after the All-Star break. "We're going to find a way to put Bobby into the closer [role].
"When he's ready, he's got to wait. I'm not going to say he's got to wait [until something else happens], but we got to see him throw the ball before we put him back in that spot. He hasn't pitched in two days, and he wasn't available the last couple days."
Putz, Thornton and Sergio Santos all can give Jenks a break, if needed. Only Thornton and Putz were needed on Saturday, as the White Sox (63-47) improved to 4-2 on this eight-game road trip and maintained their 1 1/2-game lead over the Twins (62-49) in the American League Central.
For a brief moment in the seventh inning, this White Sox victory looked as if it might be a painful one. A.J. Pierzynski delivered a two-out double, chopped just over the head of first baseman Ty Wigginton, scoring Alexei Ramirez with the game-tying second run. Ramirez had drawn a two-out walk off Jason Berken (3-3), after right fielder Nick Markakis threw out Mark Kotsay trying to stretch a single into a double.
Pierzynski moved to third on the throw home by Markakis and didn't expect a return strike from catcher Matt Wieters to try to nail him. By the time Pierzynski saw the throw coming, he couldn't slide and tweaked his left ankle on the base before falling on his backside.
Although he left the game, Pierzynski reported all the tests came back negative and there was no unusual swelling from the injury.
"I'll be fine. Just a sprained ankle," Pierzynski said. "Caught on the bag. No big deal. [Trainer Herm Schneider] wanted to get me in here to ice before it swelled up and that was it.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'll be fine tomorrow. But it's up to Ozzie. If it was up to me, I would love to play tomorrow and catch Mark [Buehrle]. We'll see what they say. It feels fine and I could have stayed in the game."
Alex Rios delivered the game-winning single in the eighth inning off Berken, after Juan Pierre extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single to left and moved to second on Omar Vizquel's sacrifice. Rios, who missed Friday's game due to general soreness, including his bat, according to Guillen, broke out of a 4-for-37 funk with the clutch hit.
"His bat still hurts," said a smiling Guillen. "He still needs treatment."
"That's why they're in first place," said Baltimore manager Buck Showalter, who lost for the first time in five games with the Orioles. "They make runs matter and they make leads stand up. Those guys have a lot of bullets. A lot of bullets."
Gavin Floyd, a native of Annapolis, Md., evened his record at 8-8 with his third straight victory and posted his fourth straight start without a loss. Floyd gave up two runs on six hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking two, pitching in front of somewhere around 30 family members and friends.
His home run allowed to Adam Jones in the second ended a string of 77 1/3 innings without permitting a long ball. Floyd's ERA now stands at 1.19 since June 8, covering 12 starts.
"He has got good stuff, fastball, slider, curveball," said Jones of Floyd. "He basically has been throwing like he's been throwing the past two months."
"It definitely adds a little icing on the cake to pitch well," Floyd said. "You can't predict you will pitch well, but you go out there and try to give it your all, especially when family's here and friends."
Three runs scored with Floyd on the mound Saturday actually checks in below the 3.93 averaged by the White Sox for the right-hander this season. Those three, along with one insurance run in the ninth, courtesy of a Gordon Beckham single, held up for the win.
Thornton pitched a perfect eighth to help the cause, and Putz pitched around a leadoff error committed by usually sure-handed first baseman Paul Konerko without issue. Putz figures to be back on the mound Sunday if a save situation arises.
Don't call it a change in White Sox closers, not as of Saturday night. Look at it more as a brief respite for Jenks, to heal and work his way back into top form.
"Everyone knows we're a better team with him at the back end," said Putz of Jenks. "It allows everyone else to slide up, mix and match with lefties and righties, and then he can come in and slam the door."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.