Jose Abreu is stranded in the midst of the worst slump of his career, but he still managed to come through when the White Sox needed it most.
The Cuban slugger flicked an 11th-inning walk-off single past five infielders and into left field to earn the White Sox a 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers in front of 20,182 on Saturday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. Abreu came to the plate in the 11th with just two hits in his previous 35 at-bats.
Abreu’s game-winner capped an up-and-down day at 35th and Shields that saw the White Sox squander three brilliant scoring opportunities, David Robertson blow a save and Todd Frazier get robbed of what looked like a walk-off home run. But all those mood swings didn’t sap the White Sox of the kind of energy they needed to win the near-four-hour affair.
“I'm very confident that I'm going to produce, hit to my level and my offense,” Abreu said through a translator. “I need to work and I know I need to work, but I thank them (teammates) for the confidence also."
Rangers reliever Nick Martinez hadn’t pitched in 11 days before entering the game in the 11th, and it showed. The right-hander couldn’t find the strike zone, sandwiching an Austin Jackson hit by pitch between walks to Dioner Navarro and Adam Eaton, which loaded the bases with nobody out. Jimmy Rollins worked a 3-2 count but grounded out before Abreu punched his game-winning single past third baseman Adrian Beltre.
The White Sox had plenty of opportunities earlier in the game to break things open but weren’t able to do much in support of left-hander Carlos Rodon, who allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Slumping designated hitter Avisail Garcia came to hit with runners on first and second in both the fourth and sixth innings; he flew out the first time and struck out the second. Avila followed with an infield single in the fourth and a walk in the sixth to load the bases in each instance, but Austin Jackson popped out and grounded out to end both innings with gloomy symmetry.
After the Rangers took the lead in the seventh, Frazier launched a game-tying home run into the left field bullpen in the bottom of the eighth. Navarro, who entered Saturday’s game hitting .069, temporarily put the White Sox ahead with an RBI single later in the inning.
The White Sox had two chances to extend the lead, but Jackson’s squeeze didn’t work — Garcia was thrown out at the plate on it — and Navarro was easily cut down on Delino DeShields’ throw home on Eaton’s single to center to end the inning.
Those missed opportunities came back to haunt the White Sox in the top of the ninth, as Robertson issued a leadoff walk to Ian Desmond, who advanced to third on a stolen base and Navarro throwing error. Andrus lifted a fly ball to center plenty deep enough to score Desmond, tying the game at 3 and earning Robertson a blown save.
Things seemed to really turn against the White Sox in the bottom of the ninth inning. Rollins led off with a single and raced to third on a stolen base and throwing error but was ordered back to first base because Abreu’s bat clipped catcher Bryan Holaday. Abreu then hit into a double play.
Frazier, though, threatened to end the game in regulation when he ripped a fly ball deep to right. Rangers rookie outfielder Nomar Mazara, though, made a spectacular catch to rob the White Sox third baseman of what looked like a walk-off home run, sending the game into extra innings.
“I thought it had a shot,” Frazier said. “I definitely got all of it. One of those things, you hope and pray kind of thing. Tell it to get over the wall, but sometimes he makes a good play.
“Tip your cap, and we weren’t down and out. We knew we had to come back.”
The White Sox did just that, albeit two innings later. It’s only taken the White Sox 18 games to get to a dozen wins a year after needing 28 games to reach that same mark.
Ventura lauded the resiliency of his team, which is now 5-3 in one-run games, for its ability to sustain a few different kind of gut punches and still emerge with a win. Things aren’t clicking yet offensively for the White Sox, but this lineup had plenty of good at-bats after the eighth inning and it wound up paying off.
“Every once in a while you get the feeling it's not going your way but again, these guys have a lot of fight in the later innings,” Ventura said. “They find a way to come through. If you want to put us on, that's another thing that happens with this group is that they're willing to work in a pack so it's a nice group that's going. None of them are necessarily hot — it's just they continually move the line and keep going and grind out at-bats."