OAKLAND — The way their season has gone the White Sox had to feel as if they were due a few breaks.
They got several on Sunday afternoon to go along with a handful of nice plays made in the field. The White Sox scored four times in the fifth inning as they took advantage of a shoddy Oakland A’s defense and earned their fifth straight victory with a 7-3 win in front of 33,195.
Jeff Samardzija improved as he went along over eight innings and the White Sox completed their first three-game sweep in Oakland since 1997. Winners in nine of their last 12, the White Sox finished their road trip with a 5-1 record to reach the .500 mark (17-17). Avisail Garcia completed a breakout series against the A’s with three hits, including a two-run, opposite-field home run in the ninth.
“We’ve got a good team, we’re starting to feel that a little bit,” said infielder Gordon Beckham, who drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth to give the White Sox the lead for good. “The results are starting to get there so it’s not just us saying it that we have a good team. We’re starting to win some games. We’re starting to come together and I like where we’re headed.”
Though he did a nice job through four innings, Scott Kazmir couldn’t have captained the A’s from running into a Titanic-sized iceberg of bad defense in the fifth.
Trailing 2-1, Adam Eaton reached to start the fifth inning on the first of two Marcus Semien errors — Oakland committed four — and Emilio Bonifacio had a bunt single mishandled. Two batters later, Jose Abreu extended his hitting streak to 12 games with an RBI single past the dive of third baseman Brett Lawrie. The White Sox then loaded the bases on a Garcia infield single that could have been the second out if perfectly played.
Beckham drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 3-2 and Alexei Ramirez singled in two runs off Kazmir’s glove on what appeared to be an easy inning-ending double play.
“You’re able to kind of put it in their heads you’re gonna be running hard all the time and putting pressure on,” manager Robin Ventura said. “That stuff happens. You have to be able to take advantage of it and we did today. We got some guys on base, keep moving them around and make it happen.”
The White Sox, who improved to 16-3 when scoring at least four runs, got their first run courtesy of a two-out error by catcher Stephen Vogt in the first inning. Garcia hit a comebacker and Kazmir went home for the first out but Vogt’s throw went over the head of first baseman Max Muncy to allow a run to score.
Garcia capped the scoring with a massive, two-run homer to right off Tyler Clippard in the ninth.
With the aid of a strong defense behind him, Samardzija (3-2) danced in and out of trouble early. He paid for a 0-2 fastball up and over the middle in the fourth as Muncy blasted it for a two-run homer. Billy Butler also had an RBI groundout in the fifth against Samardzija, who allowed three runs in a 120-pitch effort that helped save a few heavily used arms in the bullpen.
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But led by second baseman Carlos Sanchez, the White Sox played sterling defense behind Samardzija. Sanchez turned a pair of nifty double plays in the first and third innings. He followed the latter with a nice one-hop stop of a Butler liner to end the inning. Abreu also made two nice plays at first, including snagging a one-hopper off Butler’s bat in the fifth. Abreu smothered the grounder, which allowed a run to score, but managed to get the force at second even after he went face first into the ground to retrieve the ball.
“Unbelievable,” Samardzija said. “You start with (Geovany Soto) because you’re working with him so much. He did a great job. And obviously Sanchy at second made some amazing plays and saved that run there on that grounder up the middle in the (third) to give us a chance to get out of the inning without scoring. And with Eaton running through walls for you. What else can you ask for there?
“If we play like that every day, we’ll have success.”