Better late than never.
The White Sox hope that’s the theme for their 2015 season.
It certainly was the case on Friday night as the road-weary White Sox, down to their final out, tied the game and later beat the Detroit Tigers 4-3 in 11 innings at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 24,761.
Avisail Garcia forced in the winning run when reliever Alex Wilson hit him with the bases loaded and no outs as Detroit lost its eighth straight. Two innings earlier, Adam LaRoche blasted a, two-out game-tying solo home run off Tigers closer Joakim Soria. Though the White Sox only improved to 25-28, both players and staff say they have gained confidence from enduring a tough stretch, including their recently completed 11-game road trip.
“The whole clubhouse feels that way,” LaRoche said. “We’ve had some rough games. We’ve had some games where we let some guys dominate us for seven, eight innings. We need to get past that. The bright side there is we’re coming back in a lot of games, just like tonight.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
After arriving home at 3 a.m. Friday from a four-city trip, on which they went 5-6, the White Sox relied on the long ball to rally from a two-run deficit. Garcia ended a stretch in which Tigers starter Kyle Ryan retired 17 of 18 with a solo homer in the seventh inning to make it 3-2. Then in the ninth, LaRoche belted a 0-1 fastball from Soria -- who had converted 15 of 16 saves -- to tie the game.
Two innings later, Adam Eaton started the winning rally with a single off the glove of Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Alexei Ramirez, who had two hits and a walk, moved him to third with a single to center and Wilson intentionally walked Jose Abreu to load the bases. The decision backfired when Wilson hit Garcia on the right arm with a 1-2 pitch.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the victory was much needed.
“Especially when you’re in extra innings last night, lose a tough one after a long road trip, you get in late,” Ventura said. “We didn’t swing it that well tonight but they just kept battling. That’s what you have to do, is just grind away and chip away.”
Before the game, both Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn expressed confidence in the team. Hahn likes how the White Sox played, not only on the road trip, but also as they posted a 9-9 mark when they had 18 games in 17 days -- a stretch that ended Sunday.
Given how poorly the offense has performed, the team’s 31-run deficit in the first inning, Jeff Samardzija’s 4.68 ERA and their defensive woes, Hahn believes the White Sox could be much worse. Just like Ventura, Hahn likes the team’s fight and suggested the White Sox are trending in the right direction in spite of those issues.
But even an offensive shakeup, moving Melky Cabrera to sixth and inserting Ramirez in front of Abreu, didn’t appear to make much difference against Ryan.
Things looked like they could change when Ramirez singled and scored on an Abreu RBI double in the first inning to put the White Sox ahead 1-0. But Ryan settled in from there until Garcia homered into the visiting bullpen.
The White Sox threatened in the eighth inning but left the tying run on third as Soria got Ramirez to ground out. Soria then struck out Abreu and retired Garcia on a grounder. But the Tigers closer left a 0-1 fastball over the middle and LaRoche hit it out to center, just over the glove of Rajai Davis.
Jose Quintana was effective yet again but couldn’t hold off Detroit forever. He managed to keep the White Sox within striking distance, allowing three runs over seven innings. Quintana pitched out of a jam with men on first and third and one out in the seventh as White Sox pitchers retired the last 14 batters they faced. Closer David Robertson pitched two scoreless innings, striking out the side in the ninth. Jake Petricka retired Detroit’s 3-4-5 hitters in the 11th.
“The last road road trip was pretty tough for us,” Robertson said. “We battled it out, ended up taking a series during it, won a few games, we just weren't able to take all the series. Those are the ones you build off of and you hope the next time you go into those extra innings games you win them.”