Mat Latos wasn’t getting the low strike called, and it resulted in a high pitch count early on Tuesday night.
But the White Sox right-hander never deviated from the game plan, and it paid off.
Just like his offense, Latos overcame a slow start and continued an outstanding run to begin his White Sox career. Latos pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings, and Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu homered for the White Sox, who broke it open late in a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels in front of 12,093 at U.S. Cellular Field. Latos allowed two hits, struck out five and lowered his earned-run average to 0.49 as the White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak.
Nate Jones pitched two scoreless innings for his first career save.
“Perfect,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “(Latos) did a great job. He did exactly what we needed him to do, especially us using the ‘pen the way we did (on Monday). We needed Matty to go long after yesterday, and he did an outstanding job.”
The White Sox were desperate for Latos to go deep after Carlos Rodon only recorded one out in Monday’s loss. The front end of the bullpen was off limits after it recorded 26 outs a night earlier. Erik Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte for emergency use only.
But it didn’t look as if Latos would last long.
With home-plate umpire Chris Conroy not rewarding Latos the low strike, his pitch count soared. He pitched around first-inning walks of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols but had thrown 48 pitches after two scoreless frames.
One pitch aside, Latos didn’t give into frustration and abandon the plan.
“(Navarro) does call a really good game,” Latos said. “I shook him off again and got yelled at. “One of these days I'll learn my lesson.”
Navarro thinks Latos already has and it's starting to show.
Starting with the final out of the second inning, Latos retired 14 of 15 batters, including eight in a row. He worked down and on the edges yet again with the fastball and kept Los Angeles hitters off balance with a nasty slider.
“He’s getting to the point where he gets it — he doesn’t have to be as fine because of the way he throws,” Navarro said. “He’s just got to get ahead and get to work after that.”
Latos, who only allowed one hit in his first start at Oakland, didn’t yield one Tuesday until Carlos Perez singled with one out in the fifth inning. He worked around that and came back strong in the sixth inning to retire Rafael Ortega, Trout and Pujols on 13 pitches.
“He’s just commanding the strike zone, up and down, in and out,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s able to spin one in there when he needs to. It would be one thing if it was four innings, but he’s done it over a period of a few games here. It has been great.
“His confidence has been building with that.”
Ventura lifted Latos after he yielded a one-out double to Andrelton Simmons in the seventh inning. Matt Albers got out of the jam with the help of an outfield assist by Adam Eaton, who nailed Simmons at the plate on C.J. Cron’s one-out single.
Albers retired Perez to extend his scoreless streak to 30 innings over 27 games — the longest scoreless streak by a White Sox pitcher since Wilson Alvarez posted 31 innings in 1993.
Led by Frazier, the White Sox offense finally broke through. Frazier — who was 2-for-23 over six games — ripped a 2-2 fastball from Matt Shoemaker out for a solo homer to left in the second inning to put the White Sox ahead 1-0.
Two innings later, Abreu got one out to center just over Trout’s glove for another solo shot and a 2-0 White Sox lead. Abreu entered the game in a 3-for-25 slump.
But the White Sox couldn’t break it open in the fourth. Frazier, Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson singled with one out to load the bases. But Shoemaker retired Avisail Garcia and Navarro to escape the jam.
The White Sox finally broke through in the eighth.
Jimmy Rollins doubled to left off Jose Alvarez and moved to third on Abreu’s grounder. Frazier was intentionally walked and Cabrera, batting right-handed, crushed a two-run triple to right-center field to put the White Sox up four. Brett Lawrie added an RBI single to make it 5-0.
The White Sox have scored 21 of their 44 runs this season after the sixth inning.
“We can score late,” Ventura said. “We’ve done that a few times. Our bullpen does a nice job of holding them in check and we grind out some more at-bats and get that insurance run or padding that you need.”