CHICAGO – White Sox players told anyone who would listen that they weren’t panicking after a rough road trip dropped them to second in the AL Central.
Carrying plenty of confidence into their brief homestand, a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins, the Sox unleashed an offensive onslaught. They outscored Minnesota 26-10, including Wednesday’s 8-2 win, to sweep the Twins for the first time at U.S. Cellular Field since 2008.
Although pitcher Jake Peavy didn’t have his best stuff, he surrendered two runs – one earned – and struck out six batters in six innings in the humid, 96-degree weather.
“We never lost any confidence, we didn’t,” Peavy said. “ … I know it was a tough road trip, but I think the way we came out Monday you’ll see that we’re going to grind it out and let the chips fall where they may.”
Peavy (8-7) had been victimized by scant run support – in his past nine starts, the Sox averaged only 2.54 runs. However, in a change of course, the offense feasted on Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn (4-6). The Sox (53-45) tagged Blackburn for eight runs on 10 hits in 41⁄3 innings as each starter finished with at least one hit.
“There is a difference when you get some runs,” Peavy said. “You can be aggressive and relax a little bit. I don’t mean that in a bad way where you’re not concentrating and doing your thing. But it’s a different ballgame when you’re pitching with a lead.”
The Sox defense, one of the best in baseball, almost cost Peavy. Left fielder Dayan Viciedo committed his first error of the season, misplaying a Joe Mauer fly ball to open the fourth, and it nearly led to disaster. Peavy walked Josh Willingham to put runners on first and second with the Sox leading 4-1. Mauer would score on Justin Morneau’s double, but Peavy then struck out the next three batters to end the inning.
“You work hard at it and you figure at some point [committing an error] might happen,” Viciedo said through a translator. “Unfortunately for me, today was that day. Just go out there and keep practicing so it doesn’t happen again.”
Viciedo only needed to wait until the Sox’s half of the inning to make up for his miscue. His 16th home run of the season, a two-run shot, put the Sox ahead 6-2 and gave them breathing room. Alex Rios added his own two-run homer in the fifth – also his 16th of the year – and the bullpen quelled any hopes of a comeback for the Twins (40-58). Relievers Leyson Septimo, Jesse Crain and Hector Santiago combined for three shutout, no-hit innings.
“It’s nice, that you want [Viciedo] to catch that and be able to do that defensively, but again, what he’s doing offensively as far as his approach, you can tell by the way he’s hitting the ball, just the velocity coming off the bat that he feels pretty good at the plate,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
Crain, though, was a bit shaky with his command in his first appearance since coming off the disabled list. He walked three batters to load the bases in the ninth and landed 16 of his 31 pitches for strikes.
“By putting him in there [Wednesday, it was just trying to get him some work,” Ventura said. “He didn’t have a rehab assignment, so we’re still trying to get him that feeling coming into a game facing major-league hitters. It was more than really what we wanted him to throw today, but it’s getting better.”