After a loss in the opening game of the series versus the Toronto Blue Jays a couple nights ago, the White Sox have gotten back to their winning ways against the league’s top contenders. Saturday turned out to be another successful start for Chris Sale, however, it didn’t look like it would end up that way from the early going.
Sale seemed to struggle with control much of the day, walking five batters in seven innings of work. While he allowed only four hits, one of them, coupled with a free pass to the previous batter, ended up costing the Sox two runs when Darin Mastroianni blasted a 3-2 changeup over the centerfield wall.
Let’s talk about that changeup. Mastroianni, who had been called up from Triple-A Buffalo today according to a pre-game press release by the Blue Jays, boasted zero hits in fifteen major league at bats until his fourth inning home run. Sale, with a runner on first and two outs, quickly forced the outfielder into an 0-2 hole.
At this point I’m thinking we’re getting out of this unscathed. Maybe I jinxed us, or maybe Chris Sale over-thought the situation, because after throwing a slider and two straight changeups, Sale thought the right thing to do was to throw a third successive changeup to a batter that had already seen three off speed pitches in a row. This pretty much sums up my feelings after seeing that sequence unfold.
My frustration was quelled, however, when Jose Abreu doubled to begin a two out rally in the top of the seventh inning. After Adam Dunn earned a base on balls, Toronto’s skipper, John Gibbons, yanked his starter and inserted reliever Dustin McGowan.
Dayan Viciedo, doing what any congenial hitter should do, promptly welcomed McGowan to the game by hitting his first pitch into the left field stands, putting the good guys up 3-2. An RBI single by Alexei Ramirez in the top of the eighth widened their lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, giving Zach Putnam a 4-2 cushion.
Of course, no White Sox game is complete without some late inning drama courtesy of Chicago’s bullpen. Saturday’s game was no exception. Putnam began the ninth inning by doing his best Bellisario impression when he allowed a leadoff double and subsequent RBI single, cutting the Sox lead to only a run.
After the single, though, he regained his form, inducing two ground balls and a pop fly to preserve the 4-3 victory. It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win, especially with these cardiac kids. It appears that Robin Ventura will take a game by game approach to the Sox closer situation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Putnam and Jake Petricka, who pitched the last frame of the game on Friday, continue to trade opportunities depending upon the matchup. At this point, I think that is the best option.
Tomorrow the White Sox face a familiar foe when Mark Buehrle takes the mound for the Blue Jays. At the very least, the Sox will earn a series split on the road versus a division-leading team. With a win tomorrow, they could take three out of four. While it may not catapult the team into playoff contention, the series has been a step in the right direction.