SAN FRANCISCO -- The White Sox player nicknamed "Cuban Missile" by manager Ozzie Guillen officially took off for the first time in his short career Friday night in San Francisco.
And when Alexei Ramirez's first career home run landed in the left-field stands of AT&T Park with two outs in the seventh inning, the rookie had provided the South Siders with just enough offense for a 2-0 victory over the Giants (17-26) during both teams' Interleague opener. The third straight win for Guillen's crew moved it within a half-game of Cleveland for the American League Central lead and raised its record to 5-3 on this 10-game West Coast road trip.
Ramirez, who has a mere 45 at-bats in 41 games for the White Sox (21-20), only found himself in the starting lineup at second base because of Juan Uribe's slight right groin strain. He was able to retrieve the personally historic baseball and was welcomed by a postgame call of congratulations from his wife. "It's about time he do something," said Guillen with a laugh. "Even with his average not showing the way he swing, every time I put him in there, he hit the ball hard. He should have more home runs than this one, maybe three or four." Friday's pitchers' duel between Jonathan Sanchez and Gavin Floyd briefly fell off target in the seventh, after Sanchez (2-3) struck out Paul Konerko and Joe Crede to open the frame. Nick Swisher's broken-bat single to left kept the inning alive, and Ramirez, who still is hitting a paltry .156 with five RBIs, launched a 1-1 offering for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning blast. Even in the midst of limited playing time, Ramirez has stayed focused and ready for Guillen to turn to him at any moment. "First of all, I work hard and I keep my concentration on the game," said Ramirez through a translator. "But my family shows me a lot of support. I feel very happy. This will also help me out to show all the fans in Chicago who I am." "We keep him here because we need him to play different positions," added Guillen, explaining why Ramirez stays in a deep reserve role with the White Sox, as opposed to starting every game for Triple-A Charlotte. "We keep him working, taking extra hitting, batting practice in the cage, and later in the season he will have more paying time if he swing the bat like that." Floyd improved to 4-2 with Ramirez's support, allowing four hits over six innings. The right-hander struck out three, walked three and hit Aaron Rowand twice with pitches, marking the fourth time this season Floyd has not given up an earned run. Two runners reached base in three of the first four innings against Floyd, but he made the big pitches to escape jams when needed. Guillen intends to continue allowing Floyd to pitch out of trouble spots, furthering the growth process for this hurler gaining confidence with each start. "I'm going to let him suffer," said Guillen. "You get yourself into trouble, you get yourself out of trouble. That's how you learn and build confidence." As expected, A.J. Pierzynski was booed in every trip to the plate, along with the pregame introductions, in tribute to his turmoil-filled year in San Francisco during the 2004 season. Pierzynski did produce a triple in four at-bats, his first since Aug. 22, 2004, coming during his lone campaign with the Giants. Guillen pleaded with Giants fans before the game to boo Pierzynski with gusto, if they were going to boo him at all. In fact, Guillen asked for a standing "boo-vation" in Pierzynski's honor. San Francisco's attempt at an icy reception didn't impress Guillen or the fans' intended target. "That was lame," said Pierzynski with a laugh, after pointing to one persistent critic behind the White Sox dugout shortly after Bobby Jenks finished off his ninth save. "I got booed better in Anaheim than I did here. I got booed better when I played here than I did now. It was weak. "I wanted it to be way better. I wanted to tip my cap, and it didn't even get to that level. When you get booed as much as I do, it doesn't bother you at all. It usually gives me a good laugh, but tonight was a lot weaker than I thought. I was expecting more."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.