The Chris Sale-dominates-in-his-return storyline on Sunday was nearly done in by several key White Sox mistakes.
In the end, the White Sox pulled through, as Sale was brilliant, the bullpen showed its mettle once again and the offense provided a late jolt in a 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins. The triumph gave the White Sox their all-important first series victory of the season.
But it wasn’t until Zach Duke survived a near-disaster created by his defense in the top of the eighth and Gordon Beckham homered in the bottom half that the White Sox pulled away. And it was some of the same miscues that cropped up earlier in the week that nearly cost the White Sox again on Sunday.
“Until you're perfectly clean, there's always room for improvement,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Until you're perfectly clean and everything's perfect, there's always room for improvement.”
[MORE WHITE SOX: Chris Sale returns as White Sox get second straight win vs. Twins]
The White Sox still have room for growth, which isn’t a surprise. With so many new faces, there is a belief, whether in the front office, from the coaching staff or in the clubhouse, that these things take time.
As rookie second baseman Micah Johnson — who is new to the roster along with the team’s 12 offseason acquisitions — said: “It’s still early. We’re always going to be working all year.”
But for a minute there, it looked as if the White Sox were up to the old antics.
They scored twice in the first inning but could have had several more runs as Jose Abreu was easily thrown out trying to advance to third base on Adam LaRoche’s RBI single to left field.
“We had some guys on, it could have been up there four or five runs in that inning,” Ventura said. “Also being aggressive, Jose's trying to take it.
“I’m fine with that.”
[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox won't rule out Jose Abreu playing some third base]
Twice later, the White Sox couldn’t take advantage of Minnesota’s defensive miscues.
The White Sox didn’t score in the second inning despite a pair of Twins’ miscues, including a three-base error by left fielder Eduardo Nunez on Johnson’s routine fly ball to left.
Then in the fifth, Nunez misread a fly ball off Abreu’s bat, and the White Sox had the first two runners aboard. But Twins pitcher Phil Hughes buckled down to strike out LaRoche and Avisail Garcia before Alexei Ramirez popped out.
Despite Sale dominating them for six innings, Minnesota remained within two runs of the White Sox, a lead that nearly vanished in the top of the eighth.
Duke gave up a one-out single to Joe Mauer in between a pair of misplayed balls by center fielder Adam Eaton and Abreu, allowing the Twins to creep within a run. But Duke retired Trevor Plouffe and Eduardo Escobar with the go-ahead run aboard to maintain a 3-2 lead.
[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]
The offense then cleaned up any and all messes with a three-run rally highlighted by Beckham’s two-run homer into the bullpen.
“There were a couple of tough plays,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “It’d be nice to capitalize on the couple errors they gave us.
“But that’s why we’ve got some of these guys in the back end to come in and keep the game where it is and give us a chance to add on a few more. Those (rallies) are big.”