09/22/12 2:22 AM ET
Close games taxing, but beneficial for playoffs
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
In 94 games decided by three runs or less this season, the White Sox have a 47-47 mark, struggling the most with a 13-22 ledger in two-run games. These close contests serve as an overall positive for an American League Central-leading team that has rarely been blown out but also has rarely blown out the opposition, mainly because those tight finishes define playoff baseball.
On the flip side, these narrow escapes or close defeats also can take a lot out of a team.
"There's good news and bad news," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko in a recent conversation on the topic. "When you play these types of games a lot, you feel comfortable in them. You feel like it's normal.
"If you are lucky enough to get to the playoffs, it makes you a better playoff team because that's the games you are going to play. At the same time, it's very draining. It's very taxing, doing it every single day."
After grabbing an early 3-0 lead Thursday against the Royals and with chances to widen that margin, the White Sox looked as if they might have a bit of a breather before hitting the West Coast. Instead, they dropped a 4-3 decision to keep their magic number to win the division at 12.
So, the White Sox basically have been playing playoff baseball long before the playoffs arrive. Now, they just have to reach the postseason to put this learning experience into action.
"We are a little ahead of the game," said White Sox reliever Matt Thornton. "We have the experience under our belt a little bit. It's a positive thing, but at the same it's exhausting, very tiring. We just have to make it there somehow. It would be a luxury right now to clinch a playoff spot, but we don't have that luxury."
"Our '05 team was like that a lot," said Konerko, in regard to not adding on runs once the team grabs a lead. "The only time we seemed to add on runs the whole year was in the playoffs. So who knows? We'll just keep doing what we are doing. We feel like we have the pitching, bullpen and team to play those types of games, but it's definitely tough to play them."
This weekend is just the ticket for Reed
ANAHEIM -- The combination of Addison Reed returning to California, the series at Angel Stadium being a weekend set and Reed playing such a prominent role on the first-place White Sox translates into an expensive three days for the rookie closer.
"It could have been worse," said a smiling Reed, who grew up in Monclair, Calif., and currently calls Etiwanda, Calif., home, some 30 or 40 minutes away from here. "I had to start telling people to go on StubHub and try to get some cheap tickets."
Reed restricted tickets to immediate family, close friends and people he hadn't seen in a while, leaving him with 14 attending Friday's contest and 20 on Saturday. Playing in Anaheim brings about a special feeling for Reed because it was watching former pitcher Troy Percival in action for the Angels that pushed the right-hander to his career vocation.
"Oh, yeah. This is kind of where it all started," Reed said. "This is where I decided I wanted to be a closer, coming out here and watching [Percival] run into a game during the ninth inning.
"Any time we come here, it's definitely fun for me just because it was the team in the stadium I grew up watching. It makes it a lot more fun that we are in the position we are in right now. Hopefully we take three from these guys and go back home in a better position."
Konerko returns to White Sox lineup
ANAHEIM -- After a one-game absence due to a stiff back, Paul Konerko returned to the White Sox lineup Friday as the team's designated hitter. Adam Dunn, who is recovering nicely from a strained right oblique that caused him to miss seven games, remained at first base in the opener against the Angels.
"It's one of those to possibly keep him off the field and it's kind of a double thing," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "Adam is probably a little better with his side to keep him moving around and Paulie, it's better for him not to be out there. We'll see how it goes today."
Konerko, who is hitting .237 in his last 42 games, played down the one-game absence.
"It was nothing overly bad. But they just wanted to give me a day yesterday," Konerko said. "I could do either" -- first base or DH -- "whatever they want me to do."
Ventura treating end of season same as rest of it
ANAHEIM -- With 12 games remaining after Friday's 6-2 loss to the Angels, it doesn't mean the White Sox are about to change their one-game-at-a-time approach that has worked so well for them all season.
"You can see the end," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "But as far as the approach, it doesn't do you any good to think about Sunday's game on Friday, unless you want to lose on Friday.
"I don't think it's really that hard now. It's actually easier because they realize games are important and you have to be focused on what you do. It's fun to play the game that night instead of thinking ahead. Again, you just put that out of the back of your mind and play. You get caught up in that and your mind can start thinking about other things."
Third to first
The White Sox are 3-for-30 with runners in scoring position and have left 28 runners on base over the last four games.
Alejandro De Aza's fourth leadoff homer coming in Friday's 6-2 loss to the Angels leaves him tied for fifth in a single season in White Sox franchise history. Ray Durham leads with six leadoff homers in 2001, according to STATS LLC and SABR.
The White Sox Nos. 2 through 6 hitters finished a combined 0-for-20 in Friday's loss.
Manager Robin Ventura had a number of friends and family members at the game to watch the California native in action.