Avisail Garcia leaped, stretched his left arm well beyond the right field fence and came down with what might be the biggest play of the season for the White Sox.
In taking away what would’ve been a ninth-inning, game-tying home run off the bat of Orioles slugger Chris Davis, Garcia preserved a 3-2 win for the White Sox on Saturday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, the team’s fourth in a row.
“I knew (Davis) hit it good,” David Robertson said. “He’s so strong, any time he makes contact you’re worried it’s leaving the field. I was just overjoyed to see him catch that ball and come back it with it. It was awesome.”
As soon as Garcia's feet landed on the warning track with the ball in his mitt, he threw his hands in the air and let out a yell. Robertson — who gave Garcia the game ball — pounded his glove and tipped his cap while U.S. Cellular Field roared.
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The circumstances of Garcia’s catch made it even bigger. Not only did it keep the White Sox ahead, but it came on the heels of Zach Putnam blowing the lead in the top of the eighth and J.B. Shuck getting it back in the bottom of the frame.
“We’re starting to jell a little bit more, have a little bit more fun and realize if we have fun and just play baseball we’re gonna win some games,” Shuck, whose RBI double in the eighth turned out to be the game-winner, said. “And that’s what we’re kind of doing, you can start to see it show on the field.”
For most of the afternoon, the story of the game looked like it’d be Shark Week starting a day early.
Jeff Samardzija struck out nine over 7 2/3 innings, and Ryan Flaherty’s chopper up the middle with two outs in the sixth broke up the former Notre Dame star’s no-hit bid. With a 2-0 lead and two out in the eighth, Samardzija walked Flaherty and was pulled in favor of Putnam, who promptly served up a game-tying home run to Manny Machado.
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Unlike last Sunday, when Samardzija blew a four-run lead in the eighth against Detroit, the White Sox quickly re-took the lead in the bottom half of the frame.
Gordon Beckham — who has only four hits in his last 53 at-bats — worked a leadoff walk and advanced to second on Alexei Ramirez’s sacrifice bunt. Shuck then pinch-hit for catcher Geovany Soto and laced a first-pitch slider from submarining Orioles right-hander Darren O’Day into the right field corner to score Beckham.
While it was only Shuck’s sixth RBI of the season, manager Robin Ventura wasn’t surprised the reserve outfielder came through in that spot.
“He just seems to have that spark when he comes in there to be able to put the bat on the ball and do something,” Ventura said. “For him sitting around, and he doesn't get a ton of playing time, when he gets in there he just seems to elevate.”
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But Shuck’s clutch hit — and Samardzija’s masterful start — wouldn’t have mattered if Garcia didn’t rob Davis of that home run and the White Sox went on to an Independence Day loss. For a team that seemingly couldn’t do anything right in the season’s first three months — especially on defense — Garcia’s catch was a much-needed reversal of fortune when the White Sox needed it the most.
“It was big,” Garcia said. “That’s what you’re here for, to try to help your team to do your best on the field and to try to contribute to win games.”