Sale shines, Flowers blooms in 1-0 Opening Day win for White Sox
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org April 1, 2013 4:16PM
Updated: April 2, 2013 10:26AM
Tyler Flowers, all 6-4, 245 pounds of him, almost got emotional reflecting on his first game as the regular starting catcher. Standing by his locker, his eyes started to well up.
Not only did Flowers call and catch a gem of a performance by left-hander Chris Sale in his first Opening Day start, he hit a home run to account for the White Sox’ only run in their 1-0 victory against the Kansas City Royals.
Talk about scripting a made-for-Tyler Flowers storybook beginning.
“I feel like it’s going to be hard to beat a day like this, especially on Opening Day,’’ Flowers said. “Just all around. Having Sale do such a good job, making me look good calling a game because he’s executing everything. Then to hit a home run and win it 1-0 on top of that, it’s a special day.’’
Flowers said he would hit the sack Monday night feeling a little better about catching because that’s his top priority.
“I really take a lot of pride in that,’’ he said. “I was told that I couldn’t achieve getting to this level as a catcher. It’s very special to me, and I really enjoy it.’’
Sale pitched 72/3 innings, leaving after 104 pitches. Nate Jones walked Billy Butler, leaving Matt Thornton to clean up the small mess. Thornton struck out Mike Moustakas on three pitches with runners on the corners.
“Probably the biggest out of the game,’’ Sale said.
Addison Reed got three big ones in the ninth, getting Jeff Francoeur on a ground out with Eric Hosmer on second.
Sale was on top of his game against a team that got on top of the Sox for 12 wins in 18 games last season and was picked by many to finish ahead of the Sox this season. He struck out seven, allowed seven hits and walked one.
“He did a good job of keeping his emotions in check,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “He was excited. I think it was what you expect in a lot of ways, him going out and being effective and getting out of jams and things like that. But he’s a special kid.’’
Sale benefitted from two double plays turned by Gordon Beckham at second base and a diving catch by Beckham on Lorenzo Cain’s liner in the seventh that prevented the Royals from setting up a potential big inning.
Sale’s poise amid the juiced atmosphere of a sellout crowd during his first Opening Day start didn’t surprise Ventura, but it was worth noting.
“A lot of stuff has been thrown at him during spring training,’’ Ventura said. “He gets the contract, gets the Opening Day start, there’s a lot of expectations.’’
The expectation for Flowers is making a fan base forget A.J. Pierzynski, who was a favorite.
“We’ll see what the next game brings,’’ Flowers said. “It’s important to keep working hard and keep the confidence but don’t get too high. It’s a humbling game. [James] Shields is no slouch. He just made a mistake [with a hanging changeup], and I was able to get a barrel on it.’’
Shields was about as tough as Sale, walking none and striking out six. He got Flowers looking with two runners on and one out in the second.
Questions about filling Pierzynski’s shoes still crop up. They did after the game. With more games like Monday’s, they’ll subside.
“If every day could be like today, it could be fine,’’ Flowers said. “That’s more stuff for you guys to write about. I don’t think about it much. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks or months, I won’t get all these questions about A.J. like, what size shoe do I wear?’’
What size shoe do you wear?
“Same as A.J.,’’ Flowers said.