Saturday, June 27, 2009
Updated: July 6, 11:01 AM ET
"Scottie Hottie" heating up at the plate
By Jerry Bonkowski
The ladies like to call him "Scottie Hottie" for his rugged good looks.
The Cubs, on the other hand, might have a few choice words for White Sox leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik.
Unprintable words at that, as Podsednik was a one-man wrecking crew Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field against the visiting North Siders.
Even though it was Gordon Beckham's single that knocked in the game winner in the Sox's 8-7 ninth-inning win, Podsednik had one of his biggest games not only since he was re-signed from Triple-A Charlotte on May 1 but of his entire major league career.
Podsednik, who leads the Sox in hitting with a .319 batting average, went 4-for-5 Saturday, with two singles, a double and a home run, added two RBIs and scored twice.
It was the 10th time in his career that 33-year-old Podsednik had four hits in a game, but few were as important as Saturday's win against the crosstown rivals.
"It's exciting, and we were anticipating this coming in," Podsednik said after the game. "This rivalry is always intense, it's always a fun atmosphere to play in. There's incredible energy from the fans, so it was a fun one today."
In his past 31 starts, the White Sox's leadoff batter is hitting .346 (47-of-136) with six doubles, one triple, three homers, 17 RBIs and 20 runs scored.
"I felt great," Podsednik said. "I feel nice and balanced at the plate, and I'm taking good swings right now."
Much of the left fielder's recent success at the plate has been thanks to tutelage from White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker, as well as a concerted effort by Podsednik to get on base any way he can.
"I feel like I was leaving some hits out there on the table by not using my ability to run," he said. "So, I'm just trying to create a little movement in the box that allows me to get down the line a little quicker, and it's allowed me to make some things happen."
White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko likens Podsednik's recent outburst at the plate to 2005, when he was one of the keys that led the team to a World Series victory.
"He's swinging the bat as good as we've ever seen him, even when he was here in '05 and '06," Konerko said of Podsednik. "He's really pulling the ball well and just hitting to the situation.
"If there's nobody on, he can hurt you now with some doubles and homers. It's great to see. He went to spring training with the Rockies, but we'll take it. That was a great pickup by us. We know he's a gamer; we knew that from when he was here. It's good to see him out there; he got a second chance with us, and he's making the most of it."
Even with three errors in Saturday's game, two by shortstop Alexei Ramirez and the third by the game-winning hero, the Sox have won five of their past seven games and eight of their past 12.
"I've been struggling a little bit at home," Beckham said. "To get that off my back and get a big knock like that and to win the game, that's probably the best feeling I've had in baseball."
Added Konerko, "That's a big moment. I'm happy for [Beckham]. He's been working like a dog up here, and it's nice to see him rewarded with obviously the biggest hit of his career so far. It's nice to see it start coming out. He's been ready for the spot and got it done."
Saturday's win brought the Sox back to within two games of .500 (36-38). In addition, the Sox and Cubs (35-36) are tied in their interleague Crosstown Classic series at 2-2. Sunday's game is the deciding game for this season's series' bragging rights.
"It's amazing how this rivalry is so dead even, not only in the actual wins and losses, but these games are so close," Konerko said. "There's not too many games that are more than a couple runs apart. It's grueling; it's nice to get a win, but before we know it, we're going to be back out there tomorrow and it would really be nice to get this series."
And if he has anything to say about it, Podsednik will be right back in the middle of the action.
"The series has been living up to its hype so far," Podsednik said. "It was nice for us to battle. We showed some fight, and we showed some comeback. Whenever those guys put up some runs, we answered the next inning. That was good. Hopefully, that'll give us some offensive energy that we've been needing here at home.
"It's going to be exciting again. The fans are gearing up for it, I'm sure. The atmosphere's going to be electric again tomorrow, so hopefully we can come in and win the series."
Jerry Bonkowski is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.