The White Sox plan to give away a Melk Man t-shirt to fans on May 19.
But they very easily could have distributed it on Friday night as Melky Cabrera delivered against the Minnesota Twins. Cabrera finished with four hits, including a pair of critical ones with two outs, and made a fantastic running catch as the White Sox beat the Twins 10-4 in front of 23,054 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Cabrera doubled in two runs in the first inning and singled in another during a critical fifth-inning rally that secured a 5-0 start for Mat Latos, who lasted five frames and allowed four runs. The White Sox became the first American League team with 20 victories courtesy of seven two-out RBIs, including three by Cabrera.
“This is definitely a win for the offense,” Latos said. “It’s not something you want to do, give up four runs. But it’s definitely good to have the offense that we have to come pick us up whenever we do give up that many runs.”
Unlike Thursday night, when they couldn’t take advantage of myriad opportunities, the White Sox offense cashed in on Friday. A team that entered the game 20th in the majors with a .237 average with runners in scoring position went 8-for-14, including five hits with two outs.
Cabrera was the first to strike against Ricky Nolasco when he followed a two-out error by Eduardo Escobar in the first inning with a two-run double to left-center field to make it a 2-0 game.
Four innings later, Cabrera boosted his offense again with another critical two-out hit in a 5-4 contest. It appeared as if the White Sox, who stranded 11 runners in Thursday’s loss, might come up empty again after Adam Eaton tripled and Austin Jackson singled on the infield with no outs.
With the infield drawn in, both Jose Abreu, who had a solo homer in the third inning, and Todd Frazier hit grounders directly at a Twins infielder, allowing no runs to score. But Cabrera worked the count and singled to left on a 3-1 pitch from Nolasco to drive in Jackson for a two-run lead. Brett Lawrie followed with another RBI single to make it 7-4.
“That was a big one,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You had an opportunity there and he came through. He's been swinging it great for us.
“Melky, there have been some big hits from him, knocking in some runs. And Brett's been doing the same thing. It was a big one later on, he hit one down the line that kind of started moving the needle for us and getting us a good lead.”
The White Sox scored three more runs in the seventh inning, all with two outs.
Dioner Navarro had a bases-loaded infield single and Tyler Saladino drove in two with a single to center.
The support proved to be critical for Latos, who allowed four earned runs in five innings for a second straight start. Latos retired the first five batters he faced, but got into trouble with two outs in the second inning as Kurt Suzuki singled in a run to make it a 2-1 game.
Two innings later, Latos left one up outside and Oswaldo Arcia blasted a two-run homer to left to reduce the White Sox lead to 5-3. Eduardo Nunez doubled to start the fifth inning and advanced on two consecutive deep fly balls — one on which Cabrera made an outstanding running catch in the left-field corner — to get the Twins within a run. Jackson and Eaton also contributed a pair of web gems to the cause of Latos, who allowed seven hits and walked two in five innings. The right-hander threw strikes on 55 of 95 pitches.
But he earned his fifth win in six starts as the White Sox continued to lavish him with run support. Latos started the game 35th among 151 starting pitchers with a per game, run-support average of 5.4 runs.
“It isn’t what I wanted, to go five innings,” Latos said. “Some day, sometime, I’ll find the seventh inning. It’s a team win. The guys really had my back.”
Eaton singled in two runs in the second inning to give the White Sox a 4-1 lead.
Abreu — who was later angered when Trevor May hit him with a pitch in the eighth inning, resulting in benches cleared and a Ventura ejection — homered off Nolasco in the third to make a four-run lead.
“That's what we expect,” Saladino said. “You're not always going to score a bunch of runs, but when you put up runs like that, it's not a surprise. It just shows that we put some good at-bats together and timely hitting, and like I said, it's what we expect of ourselves.”