MINNEAPOLIS -- Don’t look now but the White Sox have produced a pretty good brand of baseball.
The pitching has been outstanding, especially by the starters. The fundamental play has been more than enough. The White Sox have even found a way to produce a clutch hit here and there.
All those factors resulted in a 3-1 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon at Target Field to complete their first series sweep in the Land of 10,000 Lakes since September 2012. Avisail Garcia homered and doubled and Mat Latos produced another strong effort as the White Sox improved to 7-2, their best nine-game start since they went 8-1 in 1982.
Todd Frazier also turned in a pair of nice defensive plays for the White Sox, who are 6-1 away from U.S. Cellular Field.
“It has been fantastic,” Latos said. “Everybody is loose. Everybody wants to win. Everybody is pulling for everybody and it doesn’t get no better than right now.”
Slow out of the gate after a fantastic spring, Garcia has begun to drive the ball again. He set the tone for his big day with a lengthy second-inning at-bat against Santana that resulted in a strikeout. Santana needed nine pitches to whiff Garcia, including four sliders.
So when Garcia saw a 1-0 slider the next time up, he destroyed it for a 424-foot solo homer to dead center and a 2-0 lead. Garcia made a park that played big in the series look small as his line drive banged off the back wall above the 411-foot sign.
Three innings later, Garcia tagged Santana again, ripping a first-pitch fastball high off the wall in right center for a leadoff double. Garcia advanced to third on J.B. Shuck’s sac bunt and slid in ahead of Miguel Sano’s throw on Tyler Saladino’s sac fly to make it 3-1.
Garcia is 4-for-12 with three extra-base hits after he started the season only 2-for-17 with a pair of singles.
Jose Abreu also singled in a run for the White Sox.
“Any time you have a nine-pitch at-bat, you start seeing more pitches,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Your timing gets a little bit better. You’re seeing it out of his hand a little bit longer. Balls weren’t carrying very well today, but the one he got out front, he’s strong. Even in right-center, it ends up setting him up for some good at-bats later on that made a difference for us.”
Latos continues to look much different than he did in March.
He picked up right where he left off last week in Oakland and continued a nice trend by White Sox starters, who have produced seven quality starts in nine games.
The right-hander spotted his fastball just enough and mixed in a nasty curveball/slider combination to keep Twins hitters out of sorts.
Latos allowed a run and three hits in six innings. He struck out four, walked one batter and hit another. White Sox starters improved to 6-2 with a 2.75 ERA this season.
Only Joe Mauer gave Latos any real difficulty.
Mauer worked a first-inning walk after Latos got ahead 0-2 in the count, but couldn’t put him away. The veteran also produced Minnesota’s first hit off Latos in the fourth inning with a leadoff triple past a diving Melky Cabrera. Trevor Plouffe followed with an RBI groundout to make it a one-run game.
But Latos retired nine of his final 11 to keep his team ahead.
Mauer also went the opposite way again in the sixth inning with a man on second base. He appeared to be headed for an infield single on a cue shot to third base until Frazier faked a throw to first -- he had no chance -- and threw behind Eddie Rosario at second base to force him into a rundown. Latos retired Plouffe on a pop out and Miguel Sano on a fly ball to deep left center to end his day.
“Definitely gave me an added boost of adrenaline for sure,” Latos said of the Frazier play. “(Mauer) cued it off the end of the bat and the first thing that popped in my head there was ‘Oh no,’ because we kind of had a shift on him a little bit there. I didn’t know Frazier was that close to the bag, so it was just fortunate that he made that play.”
Latos has only allowed four hits in 12 innings. He’s the first pitcher to allow three or fewer hits in six innings in his first two starts in a White Sox uniform since Esteban Loaiza in 2003.
Frazier likes how the White Sox have found ways to win so far.
A former teammate in Cincinnati, Frazier said Latos is commanding pitches like he did with the Reds. But he also noted that Latos is calm, cool and collected.
While Frazier would prefer to make an impact with his bat, he’s done plenty with his glove, part of the collective effort. Beyond the rundown, Frazier also made a diving stop and long throw to first to record the final out for David Robertson, who has converted each of his first five save tries.
“It’s a new guy every day,” Frazier said. “Jerry (Sands) had the home run yesterday. Avi came up big today with a couple of hits. It seems like it’s somebody else and its fun to watch.
“There’s no way you can get down in the dumps when you are playing for a team like this because you know your time is going to come eventually.
“Once we start winning, and everybody starts getting hot, you never know what can happen.”