Jerry Sands made the most of his 10th start of the season on Thursday night.
The White Sox designated hitter had a sense the curveball was coming in his first at-bat and then eliminated it from his gameplan the rest of the way. Sands’ approach resulted in two critical hits in support of Chris Sale in a 2-1 White Sox win over the Houston Astros at U.S. Cellular Field. Sands had his team’s only hits with runners in scoring position as Sale won for the ninth time in nine starts.
“It’s huge,” Sands said. “You think the one (run) is enough most of the time. It’s obviously good to scratch another one just in case (Evan) Gattis runs into one.
“You obviously try and get as many as you can. But one early is big, lets him get after some guys. (Sale is) the horse he’s been all year and been for the last four or five years. It’s fun to watch.”
Sands got to Collin McHugh right before he found his rhythm.
Making his first start since May 4, Sands batted with a man on second and two outs in the second inning. McHugh quickly got ahead 0-2 in the count. Sands took a pair of curveballs for balls, fouled off a fastball and a curveball and took a cut-fastball for a ball to make it a 3-2 count. Sands said he then looked for a curveball from McHugh and got just enough of one to dump it over the head of Jose Altuve for an RBI single and a 1-0 lead.
“One run for a guy like Chris, those good starters, can sometimes feel like four,” shortstop Jimmy Rollins said.
Fortunately for Sale and the White Sox, they got him two.
An inning after Adam Eaton was stranded on third after a leadoff triple, the White Sox added some insurance in the seventh.
Rollins reached on an infield single and stole second base. Batting with one out, Sands fell behind McHugh 0-2 in the count. Having noticed McHugh was only throwing his curve in the dirt once he got ahead, Sands decided to eliminate the pitch and look only for the fastball. He took a curve for a ball, fouled off a fastball, took another heater for a ball and then singled to left on a cut-fastball to put runners on the corners. Alex Avila’s sac fly made it a 2-0 game and the run proved critical when Gattis homered in the top of the eighth.
“It was a huge run,” Rollin said. “When Gattis hit the home run I was like, ‘That’s why you keep pushing.’ We had the opportunity earlier when Adam hit the triple, we didn’t get him in. Alex had a big at-bat, did what he was supposed to do.”
Rollins said of Sands’ effort: “That’s winning baseball. Robin (Ventura) has been getting guys at-bats, as many as possible, so when they do get a chance they feel like they’ve had at-bats recently and they have some rhythm and timing.”