It’s been a while since the White Sox division lead took some time for self-care. For the first game of the White Sox Monday doubleheader against Cleveland — they still have to play a full series after this during a week with no off day — both teams put scuffling starters against one another and hoped to emerge standing when the cloud of dust settled.
1. Mat Latos and Michael Clevinger were battling to a 3-3 draw in the fifth when the Cleveland right-hander fell one pitch short of cleaning up his own mess. A 2-2 fastball down the pipe with two on, the DH-for-the-day Brett Lawrie crushed a no doubt, emphatic three-run bomb to the left-field bleachers, giving the Sox a 6-3 lead that they would be forced to desperately cling to, but never yield. For Lawrie, who walked three times and collected two hits, it was his second run scored in as many innings, after he reached on an infield single and scored on an Austin Jackson single in the fourth.
2. Lawrie’s big afternoon was coupled with two huge games from a pair of other offseason acquisitions. Todd Frazier, who looked like he was getting Clevinger’s pitches on cue cards, started off the scoring with a booming solo shot to left on a 2-0 fastball in the first, reached based four times (two hits, two walks), and scored on Lawrie’s blast after drilling a single to center and stealing second.
Jackson didn’t flash the same power, but reached four times without making an out. He led off the third with a ringing double and scored on a Jimmy Rollins single, drove Lawrie in with a two-out single the next inning, and drew a full count, bases loaded walk with two outs in the seventh that wound up making all the difference. The Sox near complete botching of runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh only seemed so ominous when they were sitting up three off Lawrie’s bomb, but their bullpen managed to make Jackson a hero.
3. Latos certainly didn’t rekindle the old magic Monday afternoon but took a step forward based on his moribund recent standards. He took an odd interest in returning leads via the home run. Right after Frazier’s clout put the Sox up 1-0 in the first, he hung a curve that Mike Napoli golfed into the left field bullpen to tie things up.
Staked to a 3-1 lead and entering the fifth with less than 60 pitches, Latos lost his command all of sudden, gave up a leadoff single to Lonnie Chisenhall, a home run to dead center from Marlon Byrd off another hanging curveball, and a booming double to Michael Martinez. Latos sitting at a 90-91 mph average fastball and missing on breaking pitches is not exactly a picture of confidence, but he settled in to strand Martinez by keeping Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis from leaving the infield, and after getting a post-home run celebratory slap in the face in the dugout from Lawrie, he closed out the sixth and finished with a quality start.
4. But the bullpen had a bit more mystery for the day. In a eerie repeat of the blowup in Texas, a four-run lead and a long week ahead encouraged Robin Ventura to try to get an extra inning out of Zach Duke, only to wind up with two runners in scoring position and no outs in the eighth for his troubles.
Conceding a run on a groundout, Matt Albers was able to get two quick outs, but a 10-pitch war with Jose Ramirez ended in a two-run blast to right, and all of sudden the full bullpen cavalry was needed. Nate Jones struck out Yan Gomes to close the eighth, and David Robertson overcame a leadoff walk and stolen base by Rajai Davis, and very shaky command to close out the ninth.
5. Jose Abreu had a mostly underwhelming 1-for-5 day in his return to the lineup, but ended the afternoon by ripping an Austin Adams fastball on the inner portion for a double to left-center, so there’s at least something to believe in.
Team Record: 27-18
Next game is any minute now, vs. Cleveland on CSN
Lead Image Credit: Mike Dinovo // USA Today Sports Images