Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Daryl Van Schouwen and Chris De Luca

September 2008 Archives

Cold war?

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If there was a cold war that was going on between the White Sox and the Twins, it's over.
As for the fans?
"Well, I'm sure Sox fans still hate the Twins,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said.
But showing pure class after the 1-0 loss to the Sox in Tuesday's play-in game, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire came down to the Sox clubhouse, and waited outside for at least five minutes for Guillen - his friend - to come out so he can congratulate him.
Not that this practice was new, considering Guillen did the same in 2004 when the Twins won it.
Gardenhire kissed Guillen on the cheek, as they hugged, and Guillen whispered to him, ''If it would have happened a different way, you know I was coming down there ... you're my friend.''
Even former Twins catcher - present-day antagonist - A.J. Pierzynski had nothing but kind words for the Twins after the game.
Asked if beating the Twins made it even sweeter, Pierzynski said, "Everyone knows how much respect I have for that team, how much respect I have for that organization. They're not going anywhere. But next year is next year. This year is ours.''
As for the feud that was being hyped between Guillen and Twins pitcher Nick Blackburn, while Guillen wouldn't tip his hat for the outing Blackburn had last week, he said the right-hander earned his respect on Tuesday.
"To make this clear,'' Guillen said, "I tip my hat to Mr. Blackburn. [Tuesday] he should be proud of what he did. [The Twins] should be proud of what they did.''

Sox are Division champs!

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What a great performance by John Danks! And AJ Pierzynski, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Thome were huge as the White Sox win the AL Central Division.

Join us for live Sox chat!

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Go to suntimes.com/sports around 5:30 to join us for a live Sox chat during the game!

Welcome to the South Side, Nick

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I highly doubt that Nick Blackburn has felt a bus ride over his back, only to be thrown in reverse and backed up over him again.
Then again, in the land of "Minnesota nice,'' he's probably never come across the likes of an Ozzie Guillen.
What the Twins pitcher now knows - a fact that the rest of major-league baseball has been getting used to the last five years - is not only will Guillen call-out his own players, but anyone within his shouting distance. That includes security guards at The Cell, Alex Rodriguez, former No. 2 columnists for the Sun-Times and his own children.
It was after a loss to Minnesota last week in which Blackburn went five innings, allowing two runs on eight hits, that Guillen was asked about the pitcher's outing.
"I don't give credit to the guys that don't deserve credit,'' Guillen said of Blackburn. "Believe me, I give credit to the pitcher when they deserve it. We didn't get the clutch hit, it wasn't because of the way he pitched.''
So when the subject of Blackburn came up again on Monday night, knowing they will face the pitcher again in the play-in game, Guillen had a chance to do some damage control. Yeah, right.
Turn key, start bus, drive forward.
''I'll take my chances against him if he pitches the way he pitched against us last time,'' Guillen said. "He didn't pitch well. When you've got the bullpen warming up in the second inning ... we just don't approach him in the right way.''
It's now up to Blackburn to prove Guillen wrong.
The bar has been set, "Minnesota Nice'' is miles away. Sink or swim, Nick. Sink or swim.

Take a close look at the numbers. The White Sox and Minnesota Twins aren't simply even after 162 games with their 88-74 records, they each went 53-28 at home, 35-46 on the road and 43-29 against the American League Central.

Then take a look at what the Twins did against the Sox at the Metrodome, going 8-1. When the Sox played host to the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field, they went 7-2.

And there you have the bottom line: A coin flip that took place Sept. 12 put the tiebreaker on the South Side. With two evenly matched teams, homefield is the biggest difference.

Prediction: Sox win Central title.

Join us for live Sox chat!

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Go to suntimes.com/sports and join hundreds of fans for lively debate, videos and more.

And now ... Game No. 162

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White Sox captain Paul Konerko summed up the state of the American League Central perfectly.

''Minnesota, let's face it, if they don't make the playoffs, they've had a heck of a year,'' Konerko said of the Twins. ''They have a lot of young players. But this is an older group. Everything rides on us getting to the playoffs.''

If the Sox beat the Tigers today at U.S. Cellular Field, they face those pesky Twins in a tiebreaker to decide the Central. Should they lose, the Twins, who plan to gather this afternoon at the Metrodome, are bracing for an all-out celebration as champs.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire -- all in good fun, of course -- tried to heap as much pressure as possible on Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

''You know what, I'm going to come in here and maybe smoke a cigar,'' Gardenhire said. ''And whether we go play those suckers or not, it's up to them. It's all on their shoulders now.

''I don't have to make a pitching move, I don't have to pinch-hit anybody. It's all on Ozzie's butt. So go get 'em, Ozzie. Let's see what happens.''

The Twins will either fly from Minneapolis to Chicago for the tiebreaker to be played Tuesday or head directly to St. Petersburg, Fla., to face the Rays in the first round of the playoffs, beginning Thursday at Tropicana Field.

How motivated will Tigers be?

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Imagine if you're a member of the Tigers. How motivated would you be to fly to Chicago to play a game tomorrow that's meaningless to you?

Pathetic

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White Sox fans should boo this team.
They should boo an offense that is too inconsistent. They should boo a starting staff that can't deliver in the clutch. And they should boo a bullpen that doesn't know how to shut teams down. The Sox were guilty of all three on Saturday ... yet again.
And frankly, manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't blame them - not one single bit.
"The worst thing about being a manager is when they're booing you,'' Guillen said. "And when they're booing you for a reason - that makes it worse. I always tell my players, give me some bullets. Give some bullets so I can fight for you guys. Give me something so I can be cocky and talk a lot of crap, like I always do. When people are calling you names, when desperate people are calling you names ... it's not a good feeling.
"Sometimes when I hear those things, I say, 'I wish you were in Caracas [Venezuela] right now. Because then my boys would be right behind you.'
"But I don't blame them. I just sit there and get frustrated, wish everything would be better. But it's not. That's why I told those guys, can you please ... it's funny, because I have feelings for this ballclub, I have feelings for these fans, I played here for a long time ... I know how they feel. They're desperate. They want to win as bad as anybody else. They're behind us. When they're booing and are upset and screaming at you - I don't blame those guys.''

Ozzie rips Blackburn

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MINNEAPOLIS - Ozzie Guillen is not afraid to praise the opposing pitcher, evident with the way he gushed over Kansas City starter Kyle Davies and the right-hander's outing against the Sox on Saturday.
At the same time, the Sox manager is no stranger to throwing an opposing pitcher underneath the bus when he feels it's necessary. So while Twins starter Nick Blackburn got the win, going five innings and allowing two runs on eight hits, he also came away with tire marks on his back.
"I don't give credit to the guys that don't deserve credit,'' Guillen said of Blackburn. "Believe me, I give credit to the pitcher when they deserve it. We didn't get the clutch hit, it wasn't because of the way he pitched.''

Disaster in the Dome

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MINNEAPOLIS - The White Sox had been saying all the right things, whistling through the graveyard leading up to the series in Minnesota.
But now that it's here and Game 1 is in the books - be afraid Sox fans, be very afraid.
Javier Vazquez had a chance to put to rest his reputation as a pitcher who can't deliver in the big game. He failed.
The Sox had a chance to show that Minnesota isn't the only team that can play fundamental baseball. They failed - miserably.
Following the 9-3 loss, the only one to man up? Leave that to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who pulled no punches about leaving the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
"The bottom line is I [bleeping] suck right now,'' Pierzynski said. "I haven't been good this whole month, pretty much. It's frustrating. To be honest with you, it's embarrassing. I pride myself in those situations getting a hit and finding a way to get it done.
"But you know what? Someone's going to pay and hopefully it starts tomorrow.''
It starts with the right guy, too. If there is one pitcher that the Sox can count on to man-up in crunch-time, it's left-hander Mark Buehrle. Vazquez can have all the numbers he wants, Gavin Floyd can have the best record this season and John Danks can have the lowest ERA, but Buehrle is the heartbeat of the staff. Has been since 2001.
If the Twins beat him and it falls on Floyd's lap Thursday - murder she wrote. Unless they can somehow fool Floyd into thinking he's pitching in Baltimore - not a stretch considering they call him "Floyd Christmas'' [See Dumb and Dumber] - the Sox will leave the Twin Cities a half game back.
The one pitcher we don't have to worry about seeing the rest of the series - and maybe season? Boone Logan, who allowed two runs on two hits in 1/3 of an inning.
"Boone, he looked the same way he looked all season long,'' Guillen added. "That's my fault to put that guy in there.''
Game 2 is at 7:10 Wednesday night.
Keep whistling.

There is a pulse

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It was Ozzie Guillen's "Braveheart'' moment.
Two hours before the game, the manager had a closed door meeting and delivered a speech about what was at stake over the next week, and how the 2008 team will be remembered - one way or the other.
"I tell them no matter what we do for 150 games, people aren't going to remember that,'' Guillen recalled afterward. "People are going to remember what you do from today to the last day of the season. Then they're going to say they had a bad year or a good year or a great year. That's all they'll remember. They're not going to remember July or August. They're going to remember what's going on between today and the rest of the days.''
How did they respond?
A six-run fourth, and eight runs on the board by the seventh.
All that was missing for Guillen was a painted face and a horse ... but considering other objects that have been in the Sox clubhouse this season ... a horse wouldn't be so far-fetched.

Rule No. 1 for Williams in '09

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NEW YORK - Not to sound like Tyler Durden from "Fight Club,'' oh screw it if it gets my point across.
The first rule for Kenny Williams' 2009 offseason is you do not talk to the Kansas City Royals about pitching help. The second rule for Kenny Williams' 2009 offseason is you DO NOT talk to the Kansas City Royals about pitching help.
Let's take a look at what the Royals have given the Sox recently, shall we. [Pick-up puke bags here]
Mike "Freakin'' MacDougal - numbers since joining the Sox after KC - 3-6 with a 4.40 ERA
Andrew Sisco - 0-1 with an 8.36 ERA
Ryan Bukvich - 1-0 with a 5.05 ERA
Octavio Dotel - gets somewhat of a pass because he did stop off in Atlanta last midseason, but is still 4-4 with a 4.06.
Horacio Ramirez - 0-3 with a 7.94 ERA after that lights-out performance on Thursday.
Only D.J. Carrasco has shown an ability to survive the Kansas City curse, and had a 1-0 record with a 3.75 ERA to prove it.
But for the most part, and this is very important Kenny, if a Class AAAA team like the Royals is willing to part with a pitcher, he must really be God awful.

AL Central Watch: Sept. 18

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Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the American League Central.

Here's how Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune began his game story today on another Twins loss: ''Eventually, the Twins could look back on this as the collapse of 2008.'' The Twins have blown a prime opportunity to take control of the Central because of their mounting road woes. The White Sox' big concern was next week's series at the Metrodome would decide the season. The Sox are so terrified of playing at the Metrodome, they wanted no part of that. Now all they have to do is have a solid weekend in Kansas City -- never an easy task for the Sox -- and they should ease the pressure in the Twin Cities next week.

More bad news for the Twins: Their starting pitchers are starting to feel the strain of a long season. The Twins' road gets tougher beginning tonight, when the open a four-game series against the red-hot Rays.

Indians manager Eric Wedge hates the term ''spoiler'' even if that's what his team has been reduced to these days.

Quentin update

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NEW YORK - Injured outfielder Carlos Quentin was re-evaluated Wednesday afternoon at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and the news was better than expected.
Quentin, who was an American League MVP candidate before he fractured his wrist on Sept. 1 when he tried to roughhouse his own bat after a foul ball, is expected to rejoin the team this weekend in Kansas City and actually start work in the batting cage.
According to the Sox, the fracture in the wrist lined up and the soft cast was removed. The plan was to get him already moving on his range of motion drills Wednesday and Thursday, and then fly to Kansas City on Friday. There he is scheduled to take dry swings and further test the wrist.
As far as him returning before the end of the season, that remains to be seen, but the Sox were pleased with his recovery so far.
They did warn, however, that if there are any setbacks they will likely shut him down.

Post-game Tuesday

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NEW YORK - What was learned on Tuesday?
--Paul Konerko is more important to the White Sox lineup than people think.
--Josh Fields needs surgery when the season ends. Suffering from right knee soreness twice this year, the plan is for Fields to undergo arthroscopic surgery in the Fall, cleaning up the knee and getting him ready for what could be his most important offseason - whether he's with the organization at that point or sent elsewhere in a trade - a very possible scenario.
"If you would have asked me last year I would have said that I will be in Chicago for sure,'' Fields said Tuesday. "But now ... I would love to stay here, but I don't know what is in their plans. I do know they have a lot of decisions to make this offseason. I also know that I'm a big-league ballplayer and should be playing there, so I'll end up - whether it's in Chicago or some other place - in the big leagues having success.''
--Juan Uribe might be playing himself into a free-agent deal with the Sox this offseason to be a key reserve.
--Clayton Richard gets the starting nod on Wednesday, while Lance Broadway, well, just continues leaving the ladies swooning.

AL Central Watch: Sept. 12

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Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the National League Central.

After a 5-9 trip -- their longest since 1969 -- the Twins were eager to return to the Metrodome, where they have dominated. But they went 3-3 on their homestand, leaving manager Ron Gardenhire to say, ''We'll go out on the road and see what happens.'' Consider this a wasted opportunity for the Twins, who open a 10-game trip tonight with three games at Baltimore, three at Cleveland and four at Tampa Bay.

When the Twins return home, they will get a day off before hosting the White Sox for three games that should be a showdown series for the Central.

Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander starts against the White Sox tonight. On the Tigers' current trip, he is expected to pitch in Chicago and Cleveland, where he is a combined 1-11 (0-5 vs. the Sox) with a 7.46 ERA. Said manager Jim Leyland: ''We have to get over the hump with him. Our ace has to be able to beat teams in this division.''

Toronto blues

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How bad were the White Sox against Toronto this season?
Well, they finished 1-7 against them, hitting .178 and being outscored 34-18. Along the way they wasted a lot of solid pitching performances, evident by the 3.84 ERA in the eight games.
In the four games at The Cell, the South Siders managed one home run, thanks to the two-run shot by Jim Thome in Thursday's 6-4 loss.
Yet, the Sox have to thank Toronto for at least one thing - a 6-0 record against Minnesota this season.

AL Central Watch: Sept. 10

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Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the American League Central.

The Twins got back to playing their brand of baseball during a victory Tuesday over the Royals. On paper, the Twins would seem to have an easier schedule ahead than the White Sox, especially when you consider the Twins are 38-23 against the AL Central, and 11 of their remaining 18 games are within the division.

Here's what Twins beat writer La Velle E. Neal III says about the White Sox in his latest blog entry: ''The one White Sox stat I keep harping on: They are 8-32 when they don't homer in a game. I know it's easier said than done. But there's no Carlos Quentin, no Twins-killer Joe Crede and a chance there will be no Paul Konerko when the White Sox head to the Dome on Sept. 23 - which is at the end of a 10-game road trip.  If you keep the ball in the park against the Sox, they can be had.''

It's too late to save their season, but battle-tested veterans Dontrelle Willis and Freddy Garcia appear ready to join the Tigers' rotation. Meanwhile, in their effort to move on after the Pudge Rodriguez trade, the Tigers are raving about young catcher Dusty Ryan.

In another too-late-to-save-the-season moment, DH Travis Hafner -- in his first game since May 25 -- hit first-pitch singles in his first two at-bats during his return to the Indians' lineup.

Joe Cowley reports from his car that Paul Konerko merely suffered a slight sprain to the right knee and could play as soon as Friday. Looked pretty bad Tuesday night.

AL Central Watch: Sept. 9

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Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the American League Central.

Since the Twins took a half-game lead over the White Sox on Aug. 22, they have lost 11 of 15. Blame the bullpen but pitching coach Rick Anderson says now is not the time to lash out at his relievers. Here's a breakdown of the Twins' bullpen ERA month-by-month. September has been especially brutal. The Twins' bullpen woes have overshadowed the fact their rotation has been the best in the AL in the second half.

Jon Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press looks ahead to 2009 for the Tigers, who, despite a disappointing 2008, are not expected to dial down their payroll.

Meanwhile, a successful run against the White Sox the next two days will put Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay on a path to get less rest between starts as Toronto tries to enhance its long-shot playoff chances.

Alexei, Soto win awards

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Alexei Ramirez and Geovany Soto were named rookies of the month. Guess which one hit more home runs?

The worst-case scenario

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Is Carlos Quentin the guy the White Sox could least afford to lose? Well, he's gone. Fractured wrist requires surgery Monday. Does anyone think he'll be back in '08?

Latest on Quentin

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After undergoing further testing early Thursday afternoon, early results on the MVP right forearm and wrist of Carlos Quentin were "good so far'', according to one White Sox source.
That doesn't mean that the club was ready to breath a deep sigh of relief just yet, however. They were still waiting to hear further opinion, which was expected by Friday afternoon.
Quentin, who leads the American League with 36 home runs and has been the Sox' most consistent offensive player all season long, was a late scratch before Monday's game in Cleveland, with the injury flaring up during batting practice.
The left fielder was plunked on the forearm area a few weeks back, and hasn't been able to shake the pain associated with it since.
If the Sox get the thumbs up Friday morning, Quentin could be back in the lineup for the start of the Angels series.

AL Central Watch: Sept. 4

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Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the American League Central.

The Twins are staying remarkably relaxed, despite another tough loss on their 14-game trip to that wraps up today. Just as the White Sox have already looked ahead to their series Sept. 23-25 at the Metrodome, so are the Twins. Here's what manager Ron Gardenhire had to say about facing the Sox: ''That would be a fun series, if it's all right there. [But] we gotta win ballgames and go from there. We can't put everything toward facing Chicago at home for three games. We've got too many games between then and after that.''

The Tigers' disappointing season is now being felt at the gate at Comerica Park.

Meanwhile, a freak injury to Angels pitcher Jered Weaver's fingers pushed him out of his start Friday against the White Sox. In fact, Weaver will miss the entire Sox series this weekend.

AL Central Watch: Sept. 3

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Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the American League Central.

The Twins' 14-game trip winds down with two games in Toronto. Entering the trip, the Twins would have been pleased with a 7-7 record. To reach that goal, they must win the two remaining games against the Blue Jays. After blowing leads in Seattle and Oakland, the Twins did it again Tuesday night, wasting a four-run edge in their 7-5 loss. Meanwhile, Matt Tolbert's crazy rehab stint finally came to an end.

How far have the Indians come? They are 9 1/2 back, the first time their deficit in the Central has been less than double digits since June 29. Do they have a realistic shot at being this season's Rockies? Probably not, but if they stay hot, they could help determine the race. Aside from the series finale today, the Indians close the season against the White Sox with three games in Chicago. They also have three games left against the Twins.

The Tigers' season has gone south -- and the once-favored team faces the very real prospect of finishing with a losing record -- but manager Jim Leyland isn't letting things slip quietly down the drain. He called out pitcher Justin Verlander, suggesting the star pitcher needs to take more credit after his own losses. I recall Ozzie Guillen saying something similar about Jon Garland in 2005. Here's what Leyland said about Verlander: ''You need to have the ability every once in a while to say, 'I stunk' -- not that the strike zone was tight. You have to say, 'You know what? I was horse [manure].' It's OK, because we're all horse [manure] from time to time. It's good to admit that you're horse [manure] sometimes. ... You turn the page and try to move on. Diversionary tactics are not good.''

Ugly loss ... again

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CLEVELAND - Chicago, we've got a problem.
And manager Ozzie Guillen wasn't afraid to be right upfront about it after the 9-3 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday.
"I'm more concerned about the guys going out there and [playing] with better energy and seeing a better ballclub on the field,'' Guillen responded, when asked about his team's slide. "It seems like we are tired, it seems like we are dead. I don't see any energy. I don't see the grinder, I don't see a lot of things.
"A lot of things are missing right now. Maybe because we're not scoring that many runs, maybe because the starting pitcher [John Danks] goes out there for four innings and that's it. Maybe because we don't coach them right, maybe because I make the wrong decisions. Something's missing, and that's what we have to find out right away.''
Guillen also issued several warnings, starting with Danks and his current status in the starting rotation.
"We're going to give him another chance and hopefully he does better,'' Guillen said of his southpaw. "If not, we're going to think about skipping him and we'll see what we can do to help him.''

Body Count

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CLEVELAND - The White Sox were down a few more players on Tuesday, with Ken Griffey Jr. already on the shelf with lower back stiffness.
Carlos Quentin was scratched from the starting lineup with forearm stiffness, as Jerry Owens replaced him in the lineup. Quentin was available to pinch-hit, but manager Ozzie Guillen said that if he doesn't use Quentin in that role Tuesday, he will sit him on Wednesday as well.
Add to the fact that Mark Buehrle received permission to fly home to Chicago to be with his wife for medical purposes. It is not believed to be serious, but Guillen excused the lefty hurler.

A.J. vs. the 20-game winner

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CLEVELAND - Add Cliff Lee to the "I hate A.J. club,'' where the growing membership receives a middle finger from the White Sox catcher as a reward.
The Indians pitcher won his 20th game on Monday night, but he did so with some bad blood along the way.
Lee not only had several words for Pierzynski during the game, but stared into the Sox dugout on several occasions, including after recording the final out in the 5-0 win.
No stranger to being a lightening rod for controversy, Pierzynski would have loved nothing more than to explain the feud after the game, but was still scratching his head over it.
After singling in the first inning, Pierzynski popped out on a 3-2 pitch that he felt should have had better results. No stranger to showing emotion, the catcher threw his bat down and yelled "[bleep].''
Lee (20-2) took it as Pierzynski popping off, and just like that it was on.
"In the second at-bat he slammed his bat down and stared me down, I stared back,'' Lee said. "He was chirping in the dugout. It gave me a little extra energy. Actually, I appreciate him doing that.''
Pierzynski said he didn't say a thing to Lee the entire game.
"In my last at-bat, I hit a flyball and he was still looking at me,'' Pierzynski said. "So I don't know. I didn't say anything to him the whole game, so I don't know where that would have come from or what would have caused it, but he pitched a great game and deserves a lot of credit and congrats to him for winning 20 games.
"I was mad because I missed a 3-2 pitch [in that second at-bat] and popped up. It didn't mean anything toward him. You miss a pitch, you pop up against a guy that good, you can't miss pitches to hit. Oh well.''
Manager Ozzie Guillen - never one to pull punches - seemed put off by the entire situation, calling both players out loudly in the clubhouse by insisting that if Lee had such a problem he should have hit Pierzynski, and if Pierzynski had a problem with the hurler he should have just charged the mound.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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