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updated: 9/18/2012 11:12 PM

Ventura pushing right buttons for White Sox

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  • The White Sox' Alex Rios celebrates with third-base coach Joe McEwing after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning Tuesday night at Kansas City.

      The White Sox' Alex Rios celebrates with third-base coach Joe McEwing after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning Tuesday night at Kansas City.
    Associated Press

 
 

At roughly this time last week, Robin Ventura's strategic skills as a rookie manager were being widely questioned for the first time in an otherwise seamless season.

With 13 relief pitchers in a bullpen bloated by September roster expansion, Ventura was accused of making too many pitching changes in a critical home series against the second-place Detroit Tigers.

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"Why didn't Ventura use Donnie Veal instead of Leyson Septimo to face Prince Fielder?"

"Why isn't he using Matt Thornton?"

"Why is he using Francisco Liriano?"

"Why is Addison Reed still closing?"

Why, why, why.

"I understand all of the questions and second-guessing," Ventura said. "It's part of the job.'

There are two more important things to know about Ventura.

Having played third base on the South Side for a decade, Ventura understands White Sox fans. He respects their knowledge and gets the angst.

And there is this: Ventura lets criticism roll off his back. His predecessor, Ozzie Guillen, did not.

That's not a knock at Guillen, just another sign that things have changed in a big way in the Sox' dugout this season.

Ventura doesn't rattle, and he doesn't change. He just keeps on keeping on, if you will, and all of the sudden he's the second coming of Connie Mack.

Ventura pushed all of the right bullpen buttons in Monday's 5-4 victory over the Tigers in a big makeup game at U.S. Cellular Field.

When starting pitcher Jose Quintana hit the wall after 4 innings, five relief pitchers combined to pick up the slack and hold Detroit to 1 hit and no runs the final five innings.

In the ninth, Ventura trusted his gut and let Brett Myers get the first out, Matt Thornton the second and Addison Reed the third and final out of the game.

Ventura was at it again Tuesday night at Kansas City.

Facing a Royals team that has given them fits since 2009, the White Sox emerged with a gritty 3-2 win at Kauffman Stadium.

The offense got solo home runs from Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios, who went deep in the seventh inning to decide the outcome.

In his second start since coming off the disabled list with elbow discomfort, Gavin Floyd (10-10) bounced back after allowing 2 runs in the first inning and pitched very well through the seventh.

From there, Thornton and Reed sealed the win with 2 perfect innings.

The left-handed Thornton worked the eighth and came back in the ninth inning, striking out dangerous lefty Alex Gordon after falling behind in the count 3-0.

The right-handed Reed retired K.C.'s next two hitters -- right-handers Billy Butler and Salvador Perez -- and the Sox exited with their fifth straight win.

The Tigers hammered the Oakland Athletics 12-2 Tuesday night, so they still trail the White Sox by 3 games with 15 to play for both clubs.

Not only did the Sox lower their magic number to 13, Detroit might have suffered a key blow when red-hot starting pitcher Max Scherzer had to leave the game after 2 innings with a fatigued throwing (right) shoulder.

Scherzer, who was 10-1 with a 2.53 ERA in his previous 14 starts, had an MRI and the results reportedly were negative. But his return date to the Tigers' rotation is uncertain.

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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