A huge night for Avisail Garcia. A great outing by Chris Sale. This is how the White Sox drew it up before this so-far underwhelming campaign got underway.
The White Sox young right fielder hit a pair of homers, driving in four runs, and their four-time All Star of an ace held the visiting Angels to just two runs over 7 1/3 innings en route to an 8-2 victory Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox entered Monday night’s game losers of eight of their last 10, having been swept over the weekend by the rival Royals in Kansas City, but this was a clinic in how to bust out of a bad stretch.
“I think that says a lot about our team,” Sale said. “Tough road trip, and we played them good, too. Those were three one-run ballgames. Those are kind of hard to swallow sometimes, but what a way to start off at home. We have a few days here so we can definitely build some momentum from this and move forward.”
[MORE WHITE SOX: In 'frustrating' season, Hahn doesn't want to write off White Sox yet]
Sale was excellent, but that’s come to be expected. The bigger highlights belonged to Garcia. After Melky Cabrera drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the first and Tyler Flowers drove a solo homer to straightaway center in the third, Garcia launched a solo shot more than 420 feet into the left-center field bleachers in the fourth to make it 3-0.
Two innings later, Garcia took Angels starter Matt Shoemaker deep a second time, this home run of the three-run variety that grew the White Sox lead to 6-0. Adam Eaton’s RBI single made it 7-0 before the inning was over.
Garcia’s turned it on in a big way of late. After going nearly two months without a homer from June 8 and Aug. 4, he’s hit four in his last six games. He’s picked up a hit in seven of nine games this month and is hitting .285 during that stretch.
After struggling through much of the season, Garcia’s work to correct his issues is starting to pay off.
"Always feels great. I've been working really hard,” Garcia said. “And those guys help me a lot, the manager, (hitting coach Todd) Steverson. I just try to come here and work hard, get better every day and play hard.”
[MORE WHITE SOX: From spot starter to All Star, Hector Santiago back on South Side]
“It think he has to grind through it and fight for it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Everyone has their level of doing it and when they do and when they make some change and when they want to make some changes. You have to believe in what the changes are. Everybody goes though that a little differently. I think for him it’s starting to click, and there’s some clarity on how you’re going to do it, how he’s going to go about it, how guys are pitching him. I think it should be a fun thing to watch for him, but I think his transition into that and his adjustments have been good.”
Sale, who caused a small panic with back-to-back rough outings in which he surrendered seven runs apiece, was in need of some personal momentum and bounced back in tremendous fashion. He silenced the Angels much of the evening, untouched until the seventh, when Johnny Giavotella drove in two runs in an already out-of-reach game. But overall, the All-Star lefty pitched 7 1/3 innings of two run ball, allowing just five hits and striking out seven.
“You don’t want to let that last too long,” Sale said of his two straight poor outings. “It’s always nice when you get a cushion. You go out in the first inning, score a run and get some big nights by guys. Avi hitting two home runs, and it seemed like Tyler is always doing something for me when I’m out there. Melky is a spark plug. That guy likes to have fun and play the game. I can go on and on. Guys running around the outfield chasing balls, double plays, Alexei (Ramirez) making an unbelievable play under the gun. It’s nice to see after a road trip like we had coming out with energy and fighting. We fought today.”
[SHOP WHITE SOX: Buy an Avisail Garcia jersey shirt]
Fighting today and only today was a theme of Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn’s pregame comments. Despite a season that’s seemed lost at more than one point, the White Sox aren’t ready to quit just yet, as they haven’t been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
Weekends like the one in Kansas City are the moments that have made this team look incapable of erasing the deficit and passing the teams required to earn one of the American League’s Wild Card spots. But it’s games like Monday’s that at times make the White Sox look capable of pulling off a late-season surge.
“I think when it’s a team win, you feel that way,” Ventura said. “And when guys pitch like that and you hit the ball and play some defense, everybody can feel good about it. That’s part of sticking together and grinding your way through it.”