OAKLAND -- It's not often that a team's No. 3 hitter is lifted for a pinch-hitter for with two outs in the ninth, representing the tying run at the plate. But that's what happened to Alex Rios in Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the A's, as manager Robin Ventura used Adam Dunn against hard-throwing Oakland closer Grant Balfour.
With an 11-game hitting streak, Rios was one of the hottest hitters in the White Sox lineup. But Ventura wanted to take a shot at tying the game with Kosuke Fukudome on first base, and went to his top slugger.
Before Wednesday's series and road trip finale, Ventura admitted it's a delicate situation making the move to take out an established player such as Rios.
"I don't necessarily like to do that, but in that spot, you have Paulie [Konerko] coming up next," Ventura said. "You don't know how many chances you have for a guy who has a chance to hit one out.
"More of Dunner's thing. You don't like doing it. I don't see myself doing it too often. But last night was one of those rare things."
Rios admitted that he expected to hit in that ninth-inning situation. He also supported Ventura's move, stating the goal is to do whatever it takes to help the White Sox win.
"He wants to play, and I totally understand that," said Ventura of Rios. "I would want him to feel that way. Nobody likes being pinch-hit for, or having a guy step in for him. But in certain situations, it happens."
Humber, Buehrle perfectos similar
OAKLAND -- A definitive similarity exists between the perfect games thrown by Mark Buehrle against the Rays in 2009 and by Philip Humber this past Saturday in Seattle, according to White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.
That similarity goes deeper than the obvious -- no baserunners allowed by either starting pitcher. It's about tempo and flow.
"There was a rhythm to those games," Cooper said before Wednesday's series finale in Oakland. "Buehrle works fast and throws strikes. Philip was working fast and throwing strikes. It was like the rhythm of the game, the flow of the game just kind of sweeps and usually that gives you a chance to have a pretty good game when you get that rhythm going.
"But in two cases we saw it create a perfect scenario. It flowed for a while. In Phil's game, he was getting them out with seven pitches, nine pitches, 11 pitches. We scored some runs and they kind of were getting us out fairly quick in a few of those innings. He was right back out, so the whole flow of that game and the rhythm was something that I made note of to myself."
Cooper threw a no-hitter for Ft. Lauderdale in 1978 as part of the Yankees' Minor League system, but never found perfection. Humber enters Thursday's start against the Red Sox with a stretch of 29 straight batters retired, leaving him 16 short of Buehrle's single-season Major League record. But going another game without allowing a baserunner is not exactly the expectation.
"If we are setting perfect games as the standard now, I think we might be waiting a while," Cooper said. "But listen, he's a quality pitcher and we need to look at him to be consistent throughout."
Rios focuses on approach to get results
OAKLAND -- Alex Rios has slightly tweaked his batting stance since Spring Training, but it's still a simple stance that the right fielder hopes to stay with throughout the 2012 season.
The veteran also plans to embrace approach over mechanics, in regard to finding continued success at the plate.
"That's what I'm going to try to stick with: basically just trying to have a good approach at the plate," Rios said. "I'm just going to focus on that. I'm not going to do the same thing as last year, focusing on mechanics. Just focus on my approach.
"I don't want to mess up my head with mechanics and stuff like that."
An 11-game hitting streak came to an end for Rios during Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the A's. He's still batting .386 with six RBIs over his last 12 games and batting .444 with four RBIs over Chicago's six-game road trip.
"Some days you feel good and some days you feel all right," said Rios of his recent hot stretch. "Those are the days where you get those little bloopers and stuff like that. But I'm just overall feeling pretty good."
Flowers cuts down time -- and basestealers
OAKLAND -- Tyler Flowers admitted Wednesday that his streak of throwing out five straight would-be basestealers would have ended in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Athletics, if not for Josh Reddick's first-pitch fly ball to center.
"[Eric] Sogard took off on the first pitch," said a smiling Flowers. "He had a pretty good jump."
Flowers feels good behind the plate, and by the stopwatch, the White Sox reserve catcher is a little bit quicker to second base. He gives credit to the pitchers for giving him and A.J. Pierzynski a chance to make the solid, accurate throws, producing a 7-for-9 success rate. But Flowers also points to bench coach Mark Parent for his expert assistance.
The two have worked on a couple of little things to make the transfer a bit quicker. Without getting too detailed, those little things almost eliminate a step in the process.
"That's where I'm getting that hair-quicker, according to the stopwatch," Flowers said. "We are talking a couple hundredths of a second. It's still kind of big. It's just about being quicker. I'm sure I'm not throwing the ball any harder.
"Pitchers are giving us a chance. And like I said before, if we get a chance, we are going to throw out a lot of guys."
Third to first
There were no thoughts of taking out Jake Peavy after eight innings Monday night, despite his past health issues.
"No, he had a one-hitter or a two-hitter, whatever," said Cooper of Peavy's 107-pitch, three-hit shutout, which was one pitch short of his previous 108-pitch outing against the Orioles.
"He was ready, the pitch total was low and everything was going good. He threw the ball good. There wasn't any really taxing innings."
When it was pointed out that nobody even warmed up for the ninth, Cooper added, "That tells you what our thought was."
Eduardo Escobar started Wednesday's game at second base and hit ninth. But the switch-hitter could also see time in center field if the late-inning situation dictated, and would even be the White Sox's emergency third catcher.
"Yeah, that's double secret probation," said Ventura of Escobar catching. "I would not like to see that, but if something happened, he'd probably have to be that guy."
Jesse Crain was unavailable during Wednesday's 14-inning, 5-4 loss to the A's due to a sore left oblique, as originally reported by the Chicago Tribune. The injury Crain sustained during Spring Training was to his right oblique, but Robin Ventura didn't seem worried about Crain's injury when questioned after the game.
Addison Reed has made nine straight scoreless appearances to start the season, tied for the third-longest streak by a White Sox rookie since 1921. Sergio Santos ranks first with 12 to open 2010.