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Santiago, White Sox fall to A's in 14th

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Santiago, White Sox fall to A's in 14th

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Yoenis Cespedes' timely hitting decided countless games at every level of baseball back home in Cuba.Doing it at as a first-year major leaguer means so much to the young Oakland Athletics.With two of the American League's top pitching teams dueling it out for a third straight day, Kila Ka'aihue blooped a winning single in the 14th inning soon after Cespedes' tying two-run homer, and the A's rallied past the Chicago White Sox 5-4 on Wednesday."Yoenis is coming up in that situation and he's grinding hard every pitch, every out," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "(It was) more perseverance than anything else, because it seemed like in the middle of the game nobody was going to score for a while."He was right. Both clubs missed chances and the game kept going.Josh Reddick hit a one-out single in the 14th, then Cespedes delivered his fifth homer of the season against Hector Santiago (0-1) after Chicago took the lead in the top half of the 14th. Ka'aihue came through with the big hit in a game that lasted 3 hours, 56 minutes."You relish that, you look forward to it when you're taking your BP and your work," Ka'aihue said. "You prepare to get that big hit. You don't work on grounding out and flying out. It wasn't the hardest ball I've hit in my life. It won the game for the team, that's all that counts."
Jim Miller (1-0) struck out Brent Lillibridge for his first major league win after being called up earlier in the day.Alexei Ramirez hit a go-ahead two-run double with two outs in the top of the 14th.Paul Konerko hit his 400th career home run to tie the game at 2 in the Chicago ninth.The round numbers, everybody likes the round numbers. When it comes to that kind of stuff, I think when I'm done playing and look back, that's when it might hit home more.The game featured "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" twice, along with a 14th-inning stretch.After a pair of gems from Chicago starters this trip - Phil Humber's perfect game Saturday at Seattle, then Jake Peavy's three-hit shutout Monday - this day became about the terrific White Sox bullpen until Oakland finally got to the relievers.Konerko sent the first pitch from A's closer Grant Balfour onto the left-field steps to start the ninth. Konerko became the fourth player in franchise history to reach the milestone 400 or 500 mark while wearing a White Sox uniform, joining Frank Thomas, Jim Thome and Andruw Jones."Everybody likes the round numbers," Konerko said. "When it comes to that kind of stuff, I think when I'm done playing and look back, that's when it might hit home more. But when you're in the middle of the grind and you're grinding every day and working, you tend not to think about that stuff, and you probably shouldn't."It looked as if the White Sox would take this one after scoring two unearned runs in the top of the 14th.But Cespedes showed why the A's gave him a 36 million, four-year contract."I was lucky enough to hit home runs to decide games. This was not the first time," Cespedes said. "The team is a very young team, but the way we play together we're going to get very far this season."Dayan Viciedo reached on third baseman Eric Sogard's fielding error and Brent Morel sacrificed him to second. Eduardo Escobar flied out and Alejandro De Aza walked before Miller relieved Jerry Blevins to face Ramirez.The A's saved themselves in the 13th with a two pretty defensive plays. Catcher Kurt Suzuki caught pinch-runner Lillibridge well off second base, then shortstop Cliff Pennington chased down Alex Rios' double that skipped into the Oakland bullpen and made a quick throw to Sogard, who then relayed to Suzuki just in time to get a sliding Gordon Beckham.Konerko's fourth homer of the year spoiled an impressive A's debut by Jarrod Parker, who struck out five in 6 1-3 innings following his call-up from Triple-A Sacramento.Home plate umpire Jerry Layne took a foul from Escobar off the left shoulder in the fifth and was briefly examined by the A's training staff before staying in the game. Layne returned to the box and playfully grabbed Escobar's bat and jokingly pretending to swing it.NOTES: Already without LF Coco Crisp because of a lingering illness, the A's had Luke Hughes set to start at 3B before he arrived at the ballpark with a 102-degree temperature and couldn't play. ... Teri McKeever, head swim coach at Cal and coach of this summer's Olympic women's team in London, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins on hitting, catching and a Dylan Cease story you have to hear

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins on hitting, catching and a Dylan Cease story you have to hear

Chuck Garfien and Ryan McGuffey speak with Charlotte Knights catcher Zack Collins about

-His hot start to the season at the plate (5:30)

-How James McCann helped him with his catching during spring training (7:20)

-How he's changed his approach at the plate this season (13:10)

-What he orders at Chick-fil-A (15:40)

-Why he's not thinking or worrying about getting called up to the majors (17:50)

-An incredible story about Dylan Cease (20:30)

-His thoughts on Tim Anderson's bat flip (28:20) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

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White Sox Talk Podcast

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A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

Hitting has not been the biggest problem for the White Sox. But even after a win to kick off this week's series against the Baltimore Orioles, they're still under .500 and in fourth place in the aggressively weak AL Central.

There's a ton of baseball left, and their spot in the standings on April 22 indicates nothing about where they'll be at the end of September. But the issues that have cropped up in the early going — many of them having to do with what's gone on on the pitcher's mound — have signaled that another losing season in the thick of the ongoing rebuilding process wouldn't come as a great shock.

That point being established, there's still been more to smile about in the early going this season than there was perhaps in the entirety of the 2018 campaign, what Rick Hahn described from the beginning as "the toughest part of the rebuild." That turned out to be prescient, with the White Sox losing 100 games. This year, the early season emergence of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and, to a lesser extent, Eloy Jimenez have made it so there are exciting reasons to pay attention to what's going on on the South Side, all the while making for a lineup that can push across a good deal of runs.

Now imagine if Jose Abreu wasn't hitting below the Mendoza Line.

He's not anymore after a big night Monday, but the guy who's arguably still the team's best hitter when everything's right hasn't been right very often so far in 2019. That could be starting to change, though, and if it does, a lineup that's already a heck of a lot more threatening to opposing pitchers than it was at any point in 2018 could become even more fearsome, even more productive. And that leads to more wins, important not just for fans hoping for a surprise run at relevancy given the weak state of the division, but for a team building a lineup for the future that it hopes is scoring a whole bunch of runs in meaningful games in seasons to come.

Abreu went 3-for-5 in Monday night's 12-2 laugher in Baltimore, the White Sox bats looking even better with an opportunity to feast on Orioles pitching, which entered as the worst staff in the majors with a 6.21 ERA and owned a 6.37 ERA after Monday's blowout. But it's a three-game hitting streak for a guy whose average was down to .174 after Thursday's series-opener in Detroit. Since, he's 6-for-15 with a homer and seven RBIs.

Maybe it's just a nice three-game stretch, boosted by a chance to swing against the big leagues' worst pitching staff. But it allows the White Sox to dream about a lineup made ever more dangerous by the regular production of a two-time All Star and one of the AL's reigning Silver Sluggers.

Again, offense has not been the main reason the White Sox are still underwater, from a win-loss perspective, at this point. They aren't exactly blowing the doors off the league when it comes to their offensive prowess, middle of the pack in baseball with 106 runs scored this season. But they entered Monday's game with a 5.44 team ERA, one of the four worst marks in the bigs. The bullpen's ERAs are still on their way down after short outings from the starting staff in the season's first couple of weeks forced them into unenviable situations. One run allowed in Monday's bullpen day should help with that. The team ERA shot down to 5.27 after Monday's game, still not enough to vault them out of the bottom six teams in the league.

But reliable versions of Anderson (who's still hitting over .400), Moncada and Jimenez are pieces this lineup didn't have last year, and they've been three of the best parts of it so far in 2019. Leury Garcia has been quietly productive if not flashy while doing it. James McCann, who hit a three-run homer to start the scoring in Monday night's rout, has put up good numbers in limited time while splitting catching duties with Welington Castillo. Even Ryan Cordell, only the team's starting right fielder for a few days, has shown promise with a couple homers already. There have been holes, of course, chiefly Yolmer Sanchez — who was still hitting under .100 on April 13 but is now batting .231 after a three-hit night Monday — and the sent-down Daniel Palka. Abreu and Yonder Alonso, in the middle of the White Sox order, have been unproductive, as well, while the younger guys have flourished around them.

But an Abreu turnaround — or, really, an awakening, considering how early it still is — would boost the numbers and make the lineup capable of even more on a regular basis.

It could also be another factor in the ongoing conversation about a potential Abreu contract extension. While Hahn has suggested it's unlikely that such a deal would be struck during the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see it come before Abreu is set to hit free agency once the 2019-20 offseason begins. The White Sox are such big fans of what Abreu does in the clubhouse and as a mentor for younger players that production might not play as big a role as it normally would. But obviously the consistency of that production in Abreu's first five big league seasons certainly helps. To keep that production going with a late-April awakening would be all the more reason to keep Abreu around for the transition from rebuilding to contending.

The White Sox lineup has been promising to this point. It could become downright potent if Abreu starts knocking the ball around as we all know he can.

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