White Sox’ Matt Thornton makes toast of bases-loaded jam in 9th
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 15, 2012 8:56PM
Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko (14) is congratulated by teammate Alex Rios (51) after hitting a two-run home run against Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Samuel Deduno during the third inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:50AM
MINNEAPOLIS — Francisco Liriano was brilliant in a game he almost didn’t pitch, Matt Thornton rescued Addison Reed to collect a save he didn’t expect to get and the White Sox avoided a disastrous defeat by holding on for a 5-3 victory against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
Leading 5-2 in the ninth inning and feeling fine after Liriano took a no-hitter into the seventh on a day Adam Dunn returned to the lineup, the Sox’ mood soured when rookie closer Reed set the table for a Twins rally by walking leadoff man Ben Revere, allowing a single to pinch hitter Denard Span and walking Josh Willingham to load the bases with no outs for cleanup man Justin Morneau.
Enter the left-handed Thornton to face the left-handed hitting Morneau, who swung and missed at Thornton’s first two pitches with one thing in mind — winning the game with a grand slam. Instead, Morneau hit into a double play that prompted a fist pump from catcher A.J. Pierzynski and relief in the Sox’ dugout. A harmless run scored, and Thornton retired Trevor Plouffe — whose home run was the only hit by the Twins off Liriano — on a one-hopper to Gordon Beckham to end it.
Thornton said he blocked out the magnitude of the situation for the AL Central-leading Sox, who remained one game ahead of the Detroit Tigers after the Tigers defeated the Cleveland Indians 5-3.
“I’m in a heck of a jam with the bases loaded and no outs and former MVP, numerous time All-Star, great hitter at the plate and I know I have to make a pitch against him,’’ Thornton said. “I’m worried about that situation, that alone, I’m not worried about the element of the game at that time. Obviously afterward when it’s over you kind of realized what happened. Getting out of that jam and getting a win out of that against a good team at home, it was nice to get that ground ball, for sure.’’
It was the third save for Thornton, who will count the moment as a highlight in an up-and-down season. In the what-have-you-done-lately world of late-inning relievers, Thornton has made six consecutive scoreless appearances.
As for Reed, his biggest mistake was walking Revere to start the inning, and things “just snowballed” from there, he said.
“I was wild,’’ Reed said. “Everything was all over the place. Trying to throw strikes, it wasn’t working out. Put Matty in an unfortunate situation. Luckily we got out of it and we got the win.”
Reed hadn’t pitched since Monday, but he wouldn’t use that as an excuse.
“I felt good,’’ Reed said. “I’ve done it many times where I went three, four days without throwing and been fine.’’
Liriano, who has been an off-again, on-again piece in the Sox’ rotation, was at his best against the team that traded him in late July. In seven innings, he struck out nine, walked two, hit a batter and gave up no hard-hit balls aside from Plouffe’s homer.
When Chris Sale’s start against the Tigers on Thursday was rained out, Sale bumped the inconsistent Liriano off his Friday start. The Sox then altered their plan and started Liriano on Saturday to give Jose Quintana two more days of rest and a start against the Tigers on Monday.
“When you’re not doing your job you’ve just got to keep working and making adjustments and trying to get better,’’ said Liriano, who likely earned another start Thursday against the Royals, manager Robin Ventura said.
“I was getting ahead in the count early and they were swinging early. Pitching is all about location.’’