White Sox go from glum to glee in 24 hours
September, 5, 2011
By Doug Padilla | ESPNChicago.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Chicago White Sox went into Monday’s doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins with their collective heads down and emerged with a glimpse at a promising rotation in 2012.
Funny what less than 24 hours can do.
On Sunday, the Detroit Tigers were piling it on, completing a sweep that embarrassed the White Sox and all but eliminated them from contention in the American League Central.
With that pressure no longer upon them, and the Tigers now out of their sights, the White Sox were the ones dishing out embarrassment Monday.
Zach Stewart had a tough act to follow after Phil Humber pitched seven scoreless innings in the opener, but he stole the show with a near-perfect game. He didn’t give up a baserunner until Danny Valencia doubled to lead off the eighth inning and Stewart finished the one-hitter.
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesWhite Sox starter Zach Stewart had a perfect game until the eighth inning and finished with a one-hit shutout against the Twins on Monday.
It wasn't as good as getting back into the American League Central race, but Monday's outcome was about as good as it could get under the circumstances.
After trading Daniel Hudson for Edwin Jackson last season, the White Sox can feel like they have that kind of ability back again after trading for Stewart just before this year’s non-waiver deadline.
Even if Mark Buehrle isn’t re-resigned, the White Sox could still be looking at a number of quality starters next season in John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Humber, Stewart and possibly Chris Sale, if he is moved to the rotation like the White Sox have promised he would be one day.
“Right now I think it’s a learning process,” said manager Ozzie Guillen about Stewart. “You got to take care of him to get him better every start. Obviously, he’s going to hit a bump here and there because he’s a kid. But what I see, I like. Even when he got hit good, he’s around the plate and not afraid.”
Stewart gave up 13 combined runs in his past two outings, including six to the Twins this past Tuesday. But on Monday he looked more like the pitcher who had the Twins under control in his first White Sox start Aug. 6, when he gave up one run over 6 1/3 innings.
“They are a good lineup. I guess I kept the ball down more today,” Stewart said.
It was probably a good idea that he changed up the pitching pattern on the Twins.
“Um, maybe a little bit,” he said. “Some of those guys started off with breaking balls, getting ahead of those. Early in the game we could kind of tell they were jumping on the fastball. Later in the game when I got through the lineup a couple of times, I didn’t want to get cheated on a hit early in the count.”
At no point in the game did Stewart get cheated. Valencia’s hit came on a fastball just off the plate, but it was the pitch Stewart wanted to make.
“He just got it and did what he wanted with it. It was just a good hit,” Stewart said.
What impressed Guillen on Monday, and what bodes well for Stewart in the future, is that he took Valencia’s hit in stride, took in a quick pep talk from catcher Tyler Flowers and finished off the one-hitter.
“He’s very comfortable out there,” Guillen said. “He’s relaxed and nothing bothers him. That’s a good sign to step it up and step forward another notch. When you’re a kid, you get nervous and try to overthrow. I don’t see any sign of that.”
Flowers sighed when thinking about Valencia’s hit. He knew that history was so close and could have come to a battery that was in the minor leagues when the season started.
“It was good to see,” Flowers said. “He’s the future. Hopefully we put a run together [this month] but if not, it’s good to have that kind of arm for the next few years.”