After two blowout losses put some of their good vibrations on hiatus, the White Sox returned to what got them into the American League playoff race.
Melky Cabrera launched a three-run homer and Carlos Sanchez and Avisail Garcia came up with big defensive plays to push the White Sox to an 8-2 win over the New York Yankees in front of 34,379 Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field. John Danks fired 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball to help the White Sox reverse their fortunes after losing back-to-back games by a combined 13 runs.
“It says a lot about this ballclub,” Danks said. “We put last night behind us and understood that we had a game to win today. … We just gotta win as many as we can and see what happens. In order to do that, you gotta put the good and bad behind you.”
The White Sox got on the board in the first when Adam Eaton scored from first on Jose Abreu’s double down the left field line. Alexei Ramirez — like Cabrera, another slow starter who’s hit the ball well lately — ripped a solo home run, his sixth of the season, in the second off Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell.
In the third, Garcia robbed Yankees shortstop Didi Gregarious of a home run, perfectly timing his leap at the right field wall to catch a ball that would’ve otherwise landed in the visitor’s bullpen. A run scored on what turned out to be a nothing more than a sacrifice fly, and the White Sox held on to the lead.
With New York threatening in the sixth, McCann pinch hit and hit a rocket to Sanchez at second. The ball took a difficult hop, but the 22-year-old second baseman made the play to beat back a potential late rally.
“We’ve had our issues early in the year defensively, and part of that is we know we’re going to be able to pitch and our guys go out there and they’re trusting the defense,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I think you can’t be afraid to throw strikes and be able to let the defense work for you. Especially our infield right now, we feel pretty good about it and being able to turn some hard-hit balls into outs.”
Saladino punched an RBI single to right to score Eaton — who blew through third base coach Joe McEwing’s late stop signal — to help tee up Cabrera’s three-run blast in the fifth.
On the morning of June 8, Cabrera had a .226 batting average and .521 OPS. In 47 games since, he has 64 hits in 179 at-bats with 18 doubles, two triples and six home runs with an OPS well over .950. During the White Sox recent seven-game winning streak, Cabrera had 18 hits in 33 at-bats (.545 batting average) with two home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.589 OPS.
“He’s been in the middle of a lot of it,” Ventura said. “Right now, you feel pretty good about him and Jose back-to-back. … Melky’s been swinging it as good as anyone on our team.”
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Danks said he had his best stuff in two years and topped out at 94 miles per hour, according to BrooksBaseball.net — “The first time I looked up and saw 93, I wanted to throw confetti out there,” Danks said — though he didn’t make it out of the sixth. He limited New York to three hits and tied a season high with eight strikeouts, but issued four walks, limiting his ability to go deep into Saturday’s game.
With Minnesota’s walk-off win over Seattle, the White Sox remain three and a half games behind the Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot. But the White Sox are confident that they’re playing the kind of baseball necessary to hang in a bunched-up, competitive playoff race.
“I think defense really correlates to better hitting and better pitching,” Eaton said. “The more you have better defense, the more outs you’re going to get, less outs you’re going to give the opponent and get right back in to hit again. Pitchers feed off that as well. So I think if we continue to play good defense, our hitting will come along and our pitchers are going to help us out.”