Before most games, the White Sox take batting practice.
They might want to switch that up for a while.
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As Wednesday night's 6-4 loss to the Red Sox in 14 innings at U.S. Cellular Field painfully showed, how about a little pitching practice? Hold it specifically for the bullpen, which desperately needs some strike practice.
Over the first month of the season, the Sox have been more competitive than at any time last year. The trend continued Wednesday when Alexei Ramirez hit a 2-run homer in the sixth inning to put the White Sox in front 3-1.
But the bullpen couldn't hold the lead, not because the Red Sox were squaring up their pitches.
In the eighth inning, Scott Downs, Jake Petricka and Maikel Cleto combined to issue 4 walks and the Red Sox scored a run without the aid of a hit.
In the ninth inning, Boston tied it at 3-3 after Cleto issued back-to-back walks to leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts. Matt Lindstrom relieved Cleto and Grady Sizemore later came through with a sacrifice fly that sent the game into extra innings.
Give Daniel Webb credit for working 3 innings (11-through-13) and allowing 1 run while throwing 59 pitches. Give Tyler Flowers credit for his RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, which pulled the White Sox into a 4-4 after the Red Sox had taken the lead.
You can even give utility infielder Leury Garcia credit for coming on in relief of Webb and pitching the 14th inning, even though he did allow 2 runs on 1 hit and 2 walks while taking the loss. "No player really has any experience doing that," manager Robin Ventura said. "You just do the best. He did fine. He got us through."
But at the end of another very long night, the White Sox wouldn't have run out of pitching and needed Garcia had the rest of the relief corps gotten the job done.
The White Sox' bullpen entered Wednesday's play with the most walks (27) in the American League. The erratic unit flared up again, issuing 11 walks in 8 innings.
"It's frustrating," Ventura said. "But you have to keep working at it and getting better at it."
Ramirez continued his red-hot start with a 2-run homer off Boston starter Clay Buchholz.
Not only is Ramirez swinging the hottest bat in the league, he has hit safely in all 15 games this year. That ties him with Frank Thomas for the longest hitting streak to open a season in franchise history.
Before this year, Ramirez was a career .231 hitter during the first month. Why has he been so much better this April?
"It's just developed," Ramirez said through a translator. "I think if one prepares himself and gets himself ready and plays with a passion, you're going to have good things happen. This has been a great start for me, but I can't say there's one thing or the other. I'm just thankful that I'm being blessed that I started out this way."
Outside of 4 walks, White Sox starter John Danks pitched well enough to earn the win Wednesday, allowing 1 run on 3 hits in 6 innings.