TORONTO – Backed by a five-homer barrage Thursday night, Francisco Liriano earned his first win with the White Sox.
Alex Rios hit a three-run homer against his former team, Liriano snapped a six-start winless skid, and the Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-2.
“He’s a big acquisition,” Rios said of Liriano. “If he keeps doing what he’s been doing lately, he’s going to make us so much better and that’s what we need right now.”
Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez and Dewayne Wise hit solo home runs as the Sox matched a season high by going deep five times. The Sox have hit 28 home runs in their past 13 games. The power surge helped the Sox win their first series in Toronto since 2006.
Manager Robin Ventura said his players were “giddy” with celebration at the rare series win at Rogers Centre, none more so than A.J. Pierzynski.
“It means a lot,” Pierzynski said. “I know coming here since I’ve been here it hasn’t been real productive or successful. It’s just nice to come in here and win a series.
“Given the time of year and the situation we’re in where every game means so much, to come in here and win three out of four is huge,” Pierzynski added.
Viciedo and Flowers hit consecutive long balls in the fifth inning, the eighth time this season the White Sox have gone back-to-back.
Play was halted for 4 minutes in the seventh inning while a fan received medical attention and was taken away on a stretcher. Ambulance sirens could be heard outside the stadium as the fan was carted off, still receiving CPR.
Toronto Police Services confirmed that the male fan later died at a hospital after collapsing in the stands.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the person who was taken out of here tonight,” Toronto manager John Farrell said.
Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis was the first player to notice the activity in the stands, and alerted umpire Mark Wegner to what was going on.
“I saw some medics jump out around the dugout and run over,” Youkilis said. “Then I saw a doctor or whoever was going, just pushing on the chest over and over and over. I thought maybe they were reviving him and then the next thing you know, they kept going and going. I was like ‘God, man. We’ve got to stop this thing.’”
Jesse Crain, who was on the mound at the time, was left shaken by the episode.
“I said a little prayer for him after everything started going again,” Crain said. “You don’t ever want to see that.”
This is the second time this season a fan has received CPR at a Blue Jays game. It also happened June 29.
Liriano (4-10) allowed two runs and three hits in 6 1/3 innings to win for the first time since July 6 at Texas, while pitching for Minnesota. The left-hander, who walked one and struck out six, was traded to the Sox on July 28.
Liriano came in 0-3 with a 5.09 ERA in five career games against Toronto, but kept the Blue Jays in check after a two-run, three-hit second inning, retiring 13 straight batters in one stretch.
“It’s been kind of up and down the last month,” Liriano said. “I felt pretty good tonight. Physically I feel very good. Location-wise, pitching-wise, it was a good night.”
Crain got two outs, Brett Myers worked the eighth and Philip Humber finished for Chicago.
Trailing 2-0 on Moises Sierra’s second home run, Chicago halved the deficit in the third when Wise hit a one-out drive to right, his fifth of the year and second in two days.
The Sox took the lead in the fifth when Viciedo led off with his 19th homer and second in two days, and Flowers followed two pitches later with a towering drive into the fourth deck in left, his fourth.
It was the fourth time this season the Blue Jays have allowed back-to-back home runs.
Chicago broke it open with a four-run eighth. After Youkilis singled and Adam Dunn walked, Rios drilled his 19th home run, connecting off Darren Oliver. One out later, Ramirez launched a second deck homer off Brandon Lyon, his sixth.
Aaron Laffey (3-4) allowed three runs and three hits, all homers, in six innings to lose for the third time in four starts.
“Tonight, as has been the case in this series, we were plagued by the long ball,” Farrell said.
Blue Jays pitchers gave up 10 home runs in the four game series.
Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion was scratched from the lineup with pain in his left shoulder and wrist after a diving play in the outfield Wednesday. Encarnacion has made just three appearances in the outfield this season.
NOTES: Chicago’s last series win at Rogers Centre came when they took two of three in August, 2006. ... Toronto OF Jose Bautista (left wrist) hit in the cage Wednesday and is expected to take batting practice on the field Saturday and Sunday. If all goes well, Bautista could begin a minor league rehab assignment Monday. ... Blue Jays 3B Brett Lawrie (strained right oblique) is expected to begin a rehab assignment at Class-A Dunedin on Saturday and could be activated off the DL in time to return Tuesday when Toronto opens a three-game series at Detroit. ... With Gordon Beckham getting a day off and Orlando Hudson (toe) nursing an injury, Ray Olmedo made his first start at second base since Sept. 30, 2006. Hudson left Wednesday’s game after fouling a ball off his left foot. ... Chicago OF Alejandro De Aza was given the day off.