It was about halfway through batting practice on Friday night when J.B. Shuck found out he’d start in place of Avisail Garcia.
Shortly after, Shuck headed to the clubhouse to watch film and five hours later his sacrifice fly made the difference in a 3-2 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 21,067 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Shuck went 2-for-3 in support of Jeff Samardzija, who was nearly unhittable over his final seven innings and finished with nine strikeouts. David Robertson saved his team’s third win in 20 tries when they score three or fewer run as the White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak.
“I’m just trying to get something up, hopefully something I can drive into the outfield, and be ready from the first pitch,” Shuck said. “When I found out is when you really start to prepare. …
“Being at home, you still have time after to come in, watch film and get ready. So I had plenty of time.”
Shuck’s sacrifice fly off Twins reliever Michael Tonkin arrived just in time to earn Samardzija (4-2) a well-deserved victory. Gordon Beckham drew a one-out walk off Aaron Thompson (0-1) in the eighth inning and Alexei Ramirez moved him over to third with his third single of the night. Shuck hit Tonkin’s first pitch to deep center to easily score Beckham for the one-run lead.
Robertson needed only nine pitches as he struck out two in a 1-2-3 inning for his ninth save in 10 tries.
“This is part of having a guy (Shuck) that knows how to play the game and competes,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He had a great game tonight. The last minute you put him in there, he knows how to play. That last at-bat can go a couple different ways. With him, you can bunt him in, hit and run, but a sac fly, he just gives you a professional at-bat.”
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Though the early boo birds may have thought different, Samardzija gave the White Sox a fantastic effort.
In the first he allowed a one-out single to Torii Hunter, who was running when Joe Mauer doubled a 3-2 pitch to left-center field to put Minnesota ahead 1-0. Mauer stole third with ease off Samardzija, who has a 9.00 ERA in the first and second innings this season. Trevor Plouffe made it 2-0 with a sac fly.
But that was all Samardzija would allow.
He pitched around a leadoff walk in the second inning and once again got stronger as the game went on. Samardzija retired 17 straight starting in the second inning and cut down 23 of the last 25 men he faced. Flashing a fastball that touched 96 mph on his 118th and final pitch, Samardzija overpowered the Twins and looked every bit the pitcher the White Sox thought they were getting when they acquired him in a six-player deal from Oakland in December. He struck out five of six batters in the fifth and sixth innings.
Samardzija allowed three hits, two earned runs, a walk over eight innings. He’s 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 21 innings in his past three home starts.
“That's what you kind of start to expect out of him,” Ventura said. “As the game goes along, he just seemed to be locating better, throwing harder, sharper stuff. You feel pretty comfortable, even with him up around 100 pitches, you're still feeling really good about him. I think he handled the lineup and kind of getting through it, it was a great performance.”
It took the White Sox offense time to break through against Minnesota starter Phil Hughes. He struck out Jose Abreu -- who later singled off the left-field fence to extend his hitting streak to 17 games -- and Adam LaRoche with a man on in the first. Hughes then set down Geovany Soto and got a spectacular diving grab from center fielder Aaron Hicks with runners on the corners to rob Carlos Sanchez and end the second. But Soto tied it in the fourth with a two-out, two-run double just inside third base.
The White Sox now have 13 comeback victories.
“I have always known as long as I’ve been pitching you gotta get that first inning and get out of there unscathed,” Samardzija said. “Those things happen. They had a couple hits, found some grass and we got out of it with two and went from there. With this offense we have I know I have to battle every inning and we’re gonna have a chance to win.”