Brett Lawrie and Mat Latos made a long Monday a little easier for the White Sox.
Latos had his best start in a month and Lawrie made it hold up when he blasted a three-run homer in the fifth inning to propel the White Sox to a 7-6 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of a doubleheader at U.S. Cellular Field.
The homer by Lawrie, who also singled and walked three times, put Latos (6-1) ahead for good. Todd Frazier also homered and David Robertson stranded the tying run on second in a scoreless ninth as the White Sox moved back to 3.5 games in front of the Indians in the American League Central.
“Fantastic,” Latos said of the homer. “We got everybody up off the bench, put a little life in the dugout. He just told me, ‘I’ve got to have you shut them down here right here to keep us here.’ And we were able to get a W.”
Latos took to his designated hitter’s instructions seriously.
While he made a few mistakes — Mike Napoli and Marlon Byrd homered on hanging offspeed pitches — Latos produced his top start since April 24.
Some of his best work came near the end.
Working with improved fastball command — he threw strikes on 58 of 83 pitches — Latos induced plenty of weak contact. He cruised through four of his six innings.
But he also twice surrendered the lead, including allowing a two-run homer to Byrd in the fourth to tie it at 3.
Lawrie gave Latos one more opportunity with two outs in the fifth inning.
Shortly after Jose Abreu popped out with two on, Lawrie fell behind Indians starter Steve Clevinger 1-2 in the count. Lawrie laid off two offspeed pitches and launched a 3-2 fastball for a three-run homer and a 6-3 lead. Lawrie went 2-for-2 with three walks.
Latos made it count.
Not only did he strand the go-ahead run in the fifth after Michael Martinez doubled with no outs, Latos struck out two in a 1-2-3 sixth inning. He allowed three earned runs, five hits, walked one and struck out four in six innings and offered his club much-needed stability from the back end of the rotation.
“(Latos) was locating,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They got him a couple times, but I thought he did enough for us to get it to the bullpen.”
White Sox relievers nearly made the opener a much longer affair.
Zach Duke, who pitched a scoreless seventh, walked Carlos Santana to start the eighth and Jason Kipnis doubled. Matt Albers retired the first two men he faced with an RBI groundout by Napoli making it a 7-4 game. But Nate Jones was needed to record the final out of the inning after Albers lost a 10-pitch battle with Jose Ramirez, who crushed a 3-2 sinker for a two-run homer to right to get Cleveland within a run.
Robertson walked Rajai Davis to start the ninth inning before he pitched out of it. Davis stole second but Robertson struck out Marlon Byrd and Martinez and got Carlos Sanchez to ground out.
The White Sox offense jumped all over Clevinger.
Frazier’s first-inning solo homer, his American League-leading 14th homer, made it 1-0. Frazier reached base in four of five plate appearances.
Two innings later, Jimmy Rollins regained a 2-1 lead for the White Sox with a one-out RBI single to right to score Austin Jackson, who doubled. The White Sox added a run in the fourth on Jackson’s two-out, RBI single to score Lawrie, who opened the inning with a single and a stolen base.
The White Sox tacked on another run and appeared to pull away in the seventh when Jackson — who also had three hits — forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk to make it 7-3.
While a number of stranded runners and the bullpen’s struggles made it close, the White Sox emerged with a big victory.
“It’s important to win the first one,” Lawrie said. “It sets the tone and allows us to roll right into the next one.
“It’s a long day. You know especially going into the second game, you are not going to have the full firepower that all nine guys had in the beginning.”