They weren't the 1976 South Side Hitmen (and after wearing their uniforms, they don't want to look like them again either: "They weren't that slimming") but the White Sox offense did just enough on Thursday to earn a 4-2 win over the Mariners in front of 15,076 fans at U.S. Cellular Field.
Adam Eaton took the role as the guy that stirred the Sox drink this evening, reaching base four times and collecting three hits along the way.
"Him getting on and just creating havoc like that is very important for us," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "We're always a better when he's on there running around the bases."
Eaton's first of three runs came in the first inning when Avisail Garcia got the offense started for the South Siders against Mariners starter Roenis Elias with a bloop hit that just escaped the glove of Franklin Gutierrez, scoring the Sox leadoff man. In the third inning, doubles from Jose Abreu and Trayce Thompson, who is now hitting .519 in the majors, plated Eaton and Abreu, extending the lead to 3-0. Garcia added a fifth inning sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.
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Carlos Rodon continued his roll and pitched six plus innings of two-run ball against a struggling Mariners team. The rookie pitched himself into a jam in the first inning, loading the bases after a hit and two walks but got out of it unharmed. After that, the left-hander breezed through the Mariners lineup until the seventh inning when a Gutierrez hit a 408-ft two-run homer to right center to put Seattle on the board.
"It started out a little shaky and he got his way out of it," Ventura said. "Again, you're looking at a guy with some tremendous stuff to be able to get out it but those middle innings, he was great. Attacking the zone, I think they realized and they were swinging early. There at the end, it doesn't make you feel any better when he loses command somehwat and gives up a homer."
Ventura was most impressed with how Rodon was able to handle the Mariners lineup after facing them for his second straight start. The southpaw did it once before this season against the Los Angeles Angels and admitted he made some adjustments tonight with his approach against some hitters who he faced not too long ago.
"It’s a little different," Rodon said. "Second time around they know a slider is coming probably 0-2 or whatever the count is. It’s a pitch I rely on pretty heavily. Sometimes you got to bust out some different stuff."
Command will likely play a huge role in how many more innings Rodon throws this year. If he can keep his pitch count down and be effective, Rodon could continue to go deep into games.
"I feel good," Rodon said of his first major-league workload. "I feel strong. Just trying to finish out the season and keep on winning for this team."
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The bullpen made Rodon sweat it out in the later innings as the Mariners got runners on second and third with nobody out in the seventh. Zach Duke worked his way out of the jam, however, with two strikeouts and a fly out.
"Those guys, they know if they don't do their job it's going to put us in a bind," Ventura said. "They've been great for us. It's not easy coming in there and being able to do that but Dukie handled himself great."
Nate Jones found himself in a similar situation in the 8th with men on second and third with two outs but a groundout from Mark Trumbo ended the threat.
Games like these where it seems like all phases of the team are clicking haven't come as much as the White Sox would like this year. That's why nights like this are somewhat sweet for a team that's scratching and clawing to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
"Nights like that are nice," Eaton said. "It goes very smooth. When things needed to stop, our bullpen came in and did what they needed to do. Rodon pitched a heck of a game. We came ready to play. We started off on the right foot right off the bat. Top of the order getting things going. Guys are driving in runs. It was a good night. When things go smoothly, it’s nice. It’s fun to play in those games. We haven’t had really too many of those games. Hopefully that can be contagious and we can bring it into tomorrow’s game."