White Sox rally vs. Perkins, top Twins in 11th
Konerko's pinch-hit single sets up Garcia's winning run on wild pitch
CHICAGO -- Years from now, or maybe it will only be days, the story will be told of how the White Sox 7-6 victory over the Twins on Wednesday at chilly U.S. Cellular Field all started with a Paul Konerko pinch-hit single to open the ninth inning.
That come-from-behind effort ended with a wild pitch from reliever Samuel Deduno on ball four to Adam Dunn that scored Leury Garcia with the game-winning run in the 11th.
In between, the White Sox scratched and clawed their way to a 2-0 start to the 2014 season.
Before playoff deposits are taken for the current campaign, remember that the 2013 White Sox also started 2-0 on their way to 99 losses. Even in just two games, though, this current version looks drastically different.
More energy. More athleticism. More fun.
"We're South Siders. We're grinders," said White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton of the team's late-inning rally. "Any way, shape or form, we get the job done. We'll take the [wild pitch] any day of the week. It's not ever over, you know? We can battle back."
"By coming back and then you win later, I don't know how many times we did that last year, not many," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, whose '13 squad had two wins when trailing after eight innings. "You end up doing something that feels new and feels fresh for these guys."
Speaking of new and fresh, that part-time pinch-hitting role fits the bill for an organization staple of 16 years such as Konerko. With the White Sox trailing by two in the ninth and Twins closer Glen Perkins on the mound, Konerko stepped in for Alejandro De Aza and laced the first pitch he saw off of third base.
Adrian Nieto pinch-ran and moved to second on pinch-hitter Dayan Viciedo's single before coming around to score on Garcia's single. A wild pitch allowed Viciedo to score the tying run on Eaton's slow roller to third, when Trevor Plouffe's throw was late and wide in the dirt.
Konerko provided the spark off the bench needed by the White Sox, just as it was drawn up when he returned for his final season in Chicago.
"There's going to be enjoyment that comes from that," said Ventura of Konerko. "He sparked that last inning to be able to do that and do it in the first inning he's in this season. That's a big thing in this clubhouse, when he goes up there and does stuff like that."
"I just wanted to be aggressive and not go up there free swinging but try to make a decision on the pitch, but don't be tentative, either," Konerko said. "Just trying to get the routines down during the game, which will take a little bit of time. But I've talked to some people and kind of have an idea."
Ronald Belisario, the White Sox seventh and final pitcher, came in for Donnie Veal and stranded two runners in the 10th before pitching a perfect 11th to set up the winning frame. Garcia scored the deciding run after leading off with a perfectly placed bunt on a 0-2 pitch from Deduno.
A called third strike on Marcus Semien, who is 0-for-10 to start the season and also struck out with the game-winning run on third and one out in the ninth, led to an intentional walk to Jose Abreu and the wild pitch on Dunn's free pass.
"He had great stuff," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said of Deduno. "But you have to harness it out there."
Garcia's bunting bravado served as a major step in putting this game into the win column.
"You have to work on it," Garcia said. "I've been working, and that was the perfect time to do it, and I [did] it. It was perfect."
The White Sox held a 3-2 lead into the seventh behind a 5 1/3-inning and 109-pitch effort from Felipe Paulino, who was making his first big league start since June 6, 2012, for the Royals against the Twins. But Minnesota rallied for three in the seventh off of Scott Downs and Nate Jones to give starter Kevin Correia a two-run lead.
Correia exited at just 82 pitches because Gardenhire couldn't bring him back in the 38-degree cold after approximately the five-minute review process in the seventh on a Twins challenge of an Oswaldo Arcia fly ball to center. The play was originally ruled a catch, with Eaton dropping the ball on the transfer, but after video review, the play was overturned, putting runners on first and second with nobody out.
"It took a long time," said Gardenhire of the replay. "I don't know what was going on, but it took an awful long time and you end up losing your starter because of it. You just have to live with it."
Dunn's 441st career homer brought the White Sox closer in the eighth, but a run in the ninth gave Perkins extra room to work with. It wasn't enough room against the reshaped White Sox in a game they probably would have lost last season.
"Yes," said Ventura with a wry smile over losing these close games in '13. "Well put."
"As much as we all want to say it's over with, I wasn't here but I can tell by the guys it was a lot to deal with and it still kind of lingers," Eaton said. "To get a great win like this early and a good win on Monday, we're heading in the right direction. We have to keep it going."