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White Sox ‘pen saves Stewart’s first win

August 6, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — As he made his White Sox debut, right-hander Zach Stewart was told by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to have some fun, throw strikes and give the team a chance to win.

Stewart did just that, delivering a solid start and picking up his first Major League victory as the White Sox won their second straight, 6-1, over the Twins at Target Field on Saturday.

The 24-year-old right-hander pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on eight hits with two strikeouts and a walk. Stewart tossed 79 pitches, 55 of which were strikes.

“That’s pretty much my usual game plan, just go out and try to throw a lot of strikes and attack the zone,” Stewart said. “And, you know, get ’em out.

“I like to go out and try to make them put the bat on the ball and hit ground balls and just save my pitch count to where I can throw later into games.”

Through four innings, Stewart had allowed just two singles and a walk before the Twins started to figure him out a bit. He got into trouble in both the fifth and sixth innings, but escaped with just one run allowed.

“Their guy did a good job of keeping us off balance,” said Twins starter Carl Pavano, who allowed two runs (one earned) on nine hits over eight innings. “It seemed like he had pretty good stuff, too. He had a good fastball and good secondary stuff, so you have to tip your hat to him as well.”

Stewart credited catcher A.J. Pierzynski for calling a good game behind the plate, noting that he just tried to follow Pierzynski’s lead.

With runners on the corners in the sixth, the White Sox turned an inning-ending double play to help Stewart get out of the jam.

“Once they saw that he was throwing strikes, they started swinging early, and he got some easy, quick outs,” said Pierzynski, who said he had never seen Stewart throw a pitch until in the bullpen just minutes prior to the game. “He made some pitches when he had to, the double play on Delmon Young [in the sixth] was huge.”

In the fifth, the White Sox got on the board with a walk by Brent Morel and a pair of singles by Juan Pierre and Paul Konerko. Morel scored on Konerko’s two-out single, while Pierre stole third base and scored as the throw got away from Twins third baseman Danny Valencia one batter later.

Alejandro De Aza scored from third in the ninth on catcher Drew Butera’s errant throw to second following a Joe Nathan wild pitch.

Konerko then plated another run with a fielder’s choice, and Brent Lillibridge launched a two-run homer off Nathan to put the game out of reach.

Chris Sale relieved Stewart with one on and one out in the seventh, and he retired the first two batters he faced.

After giving up a double and throwing a wild pitch in the eighth, he got two crucial groundouts by Jason Kubel and Jim Thome to keep the Twins from tying the game, and Jason Frasor got the White Sox out of the inning with a strikeout of Valencia looking on three pitches.

“I think everybody knows how tough he is,” Thome said of Sale. “He throws 97 [mph] and throws a slider. The thing he does real well is that his arm speed when he throws the slider is like his heater. It’s not coming out like it’s his heater, but his arm speed is very good.”

Sergio Santos worked a perfect ninth to finish out what Stewart started.

Before the game, Guillen said he would have to wait until after he saw Stewart pitch before he decided what the White Sox would do with the right-hander for the rest of the season.

The only thing that was certain after Saturday’s game was that Stewart will stay with the big league club for a while and has impressed his manager so far.

“I like his attitude and his presence on the mound,” Guillen said. “He’s got a pretty good makeup. Hopefully, he’ll keep it up like that.”

Will Stewart get another opportunity to start?

“The way he threw the ball, he should,” Guillen said.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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