Thursday night, the White Sox were held to three runs and dropped just their second series of the year, despite being handed a passel of free baserunners from an unbelievably sloppy effort by the Boston pitching staff.
1. In the first inning Friday night against Ricky Nolasco and the Twins, the White Sox showed quickly they would not be as forgiving to mistakes from the opposition. Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar extended the opening frame on a routine grounder from Todd Frazier by booting the ball in front of him and spiking a throw to second into the dirt. His sins were immediately punished by Melky Cabrera, who plated two by drilling a 3-1 fastball to the wall in left-center for a double, putting the Sox up 2-0.
One inning later, with runners on the corners and one out, Adam Eaton knifed a single through left side of the infield, scoring Avisail Garcia from third nigh automatically, but Tyler Saladino was able to score all the way from first because Twins left fielder Oswaldo Arcia was more captivated by gunning down Eaton at second than well, the fact that Saladino was racing around the bases.
With Jose Abreu blasting his fifth home run on the season in the third to vault the Sox out to a 5-1 advantage, the division leaders threatened to run away with this one early. But after the Twins crawled back to within a run, manager Paul Molitor was content to let his starter hang himself in the fifth inning, leaving him in to face the heart of the order despite a leadoff triple from Eaton, followed by Austin Jackson reaching base because Nolasco never bothered to cover first on a grounder to Joe Mauer. A drawn-in infield executed to perfection almost got the Twins out of the jam, but Cabrera and Brett Lawrie drilled back-to-back RBI singles to push the game to 7-4.
Somehow still, the Twins were not done hemorrhaging runs with miscues, as reliever Fernando Abad, knocked down a bases loaded comebacker from Dioner Navarro in the seventh, only to look around clueless for the ball as it lay at his feet. The two-run single he allowed to Saladino immediately afterward was twice as costly, but nowhere near as embarrassing.
2. With all this craziness stacked on top of each other, Mat Latos did not need to be as sharp as his April flourishes to move to 5-0, and he was not. There was some extra zip behind his fastball–he touched 96 mph at a random point of the first inning–and he got some rare whiffs on his heater, but made egregious mistakes in the upper half of the zone that won’t really play at speeds under 95 mph against major league hitters, particularly after falling behind as often as Latos was.
For whatever reason, Latos struggled particularly with getting the third out. Twins hitting with two outs went 6-for-11 (they only had seven hits total off Latos in his five innings) with a home run and a walk. It was a bad looking night for the towering right-hander, but the last two weeks have provided material to contrast it from a night where the pitcher looks fundamentally unqualified to get outs, or in the case of Nolasco, where the pitcher can’t get through five complete without torching the whole game. Latos survived.
3. Latos and Sox pitching in general benefitted from simply stunning glovework throughout the evening. Eaton made a gorgeous running catch on liner to the right field corner in the third, and had been preceded that inning by Navarro gunning down Danny Santana trying to steal second. Clinging to a one-run lead in the fifth, Cabrera tracked down a deep fly ball off the bat of Mauer that died just in front of the left field foul pole, but Jackson got the best play of the night by leaping and crashing into the wall to snag a blast from Byung-ho Park to right-center at the top of the sixth.
The Sox throwing leather around still feels like role reversal at this point, but it’s becoming a tried and true reason they win games. The offensive was obviously productive Friday, but when the pitching has off nights, the gloves are consistently there to keep things reasonable.
4. Park would wind up turning the game in a different way two innings later. He got plunked high by a scary Nate Jones fastball, but managed to stay in and even stole a base. It didn’t seem like his condition entirely eased the concerns of the Twins, since Abreu caught a fastball in the ribs from reliever Trevor May in the bottom half of the inning.
The normally monk-like Abreu confronted May while never relinquishing his bat, until benches cleared and everyone was separated. Robin Ventura earned his second ejection of the season arguing after both dugouts were warned but no one was thrown out. Snapping back into character at an extremely high speed, Abreu apologized for his outburst post-game and thanked his teammates and manager for their support.
5. A monster four-hit night from Cabrera carried the offense. He knocked in three and bailed out the Sox attack with a pair of two-out RBI hits that starkly contrasted with the strand-fest of Thursday. Lawrie, Eaton and Saladino all collected two hits each, and Garcia even took a pair of walks while reaching base three times.
Garcia is up to .237/.322/.446, which puts him over Abreu in terms of OPS for the moment.
Team Record: 20-10
Next game is Saturday vs. Minnesota at 6:10pm CT on WGN or MLB Network
Lead Image Credit: Patrick Gorski // USA Today Sports Images