Paul Konerko hits 3-run homer in 8th as White Sox top Indians 6-4 in Manny Ramirez's debut
CLEVELAND – For the second straight game, Manny Ramirez watched from a few feet away as one of his new teammates hit a game-winning homer.
Claimed off waivers by Chicago for his renowned power, Ramirez provided only a bloop a single in his debut but he was on deck when Paul Konerko hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to give the White Sox a 6-4 win and three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.
Ramirez's debut with the White Sox was anything but a hit for seven innings. Chicago trailed 4-1 going into the eighth, but the White Sox rallied after the Indians pulled Carlos Carrasco, who was making his first start of 2010.
With the intimidating Ramirez waiting in the on-deck circle, Konerko connected with two outs off Justin Germano (0-1) as the White Sox improved to 3-0 on a 10-game trip that will next take them to Boston, where Ramirez may not be welcomed back with open arms by Red Sox fans.
On Tuesday night, Ramirez was on deck in the ninth and ready to pinch hit when A.J. Pierzynski hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer in Chicago's 4-3 win.
Chicago reliever Tony Pena (4-2) pitched three innings after replacing Freddy Garcia, who left after four with a stiff back. Rookie Chris Sale, the team's first-round draft pick, pitched the ninth for his first career save. The left-hander struck out Shin Soo-Choo with the tying runs on base to end it.
Wearing his familiar No. 99 and dreadlocks yet to be trimmed to team appearance standards, Ramirez went 1-for-3 in his return to the AL after 2½ seasons with the Dodgers. He grounded out in the second, struck out in the fourth, blooped a single to right in the seventh and was hit in the upper back by a 70 mph breaking ball from Germano in the ninth, two pitches after Konerko hit his 33rd homer.
The White Sox were counting on Ramirez's presence in their lineup to make a difference, and it already has — without him even hitting the ball hard.
Chicago did get a home run from its other Ramirez, shortstop Alexei, whose solo homer started the comeback in the eighth. He added a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Alex Rios also homered for the White Sox.
Before the rally, Chicago hardly looked like a team in playoff contention. The White Sox made three errors and struggled against Carrasco, recalled from Triple-A Columbus to start the series finale. He allowed six hits and three runs in 7 1-3 innings.
In the fourth, Garcia attempted to field an infield roller hit by Jason Nix to the left of the mound. After chasing it, he walked back to the rubber slowly but appeared OK. He finished the inning, but didn't come out for the fifth and was replaced by Pena.
Garcia, who is 8-2 in his last 16 starts, has managed to stay off the disabled list so far this season after injury problems hampered him the past three years.
Along with running a team that always seems immersed in controversy, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is doing all he can to manage expectations about what Ramirez can do for his team in the season's final month as they chase the first-place Minnesota Twins.
Guillen knows it takes more than one Manny to win.
"A lot of people expect Manny to come in here and be the savior," Guillen said. "We have 20 or 30 guys out there pulling the same rope. Manny does not have to carry this ballcub. I hope he does. Everybody does. He's going to make our lineup better. He'll make people better around him. Our hope is to keep him healthy, play him as much as we can, and just have some fun."
Guillen's only rules for Ramirez are that he must join his teammates for their pregame stretch, be on the field for the national anthem and play hard. He's sure that at least a few of his players will encourage Ramirez to test his new manager.
"Believe me, (Mark) Buehrle will tell Manny not to show up for the national anthem," Guillen said. "That, I can guarantee you. The players have known me for seven years. When somebody doesn't go by the rules, that makes me upset. I bet you somebody out there will tell him to do something just to see my reaction."
NOTES: With Ramirez on board, the White Sox are the second team in history to have players with at least 300 (Konerko), 400 (Andruw Jones) and 500 (Ramirez) homers. The 2002 Texas Rangers were the first with Alex Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro. ... Of Konerko's 33 homers, 12 have come in the eighth inning or later. ... Indians 1B Matt LaPorta (strained left hip) was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game. He singled as a pinch-hitter in the ninth on Tuesday. LaPorta had surgery on the hip in October.