The White Sox found yet another way to survive on Monday night.
All it took was a third straight walkoff hit, something they hadn’t done in more than 50 years.
Tyler Saladino helped his team shake off a second straight blown save when he singled in the winning run with one out in the ninth to send the White Sox to a 5-4 victory over the Cubs in front of 39,510 at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox, who had two game-winning hits in the ninth inning on Sunday, now have three in a row for the first time since Aug. 4-6, 1962. It also was the team’s fifth walkoff of the season as they improved to 49-50.
“It's a morale booster for sure, and its just good baseball,” Saladino said. “The guys are pumped.”
They should be.
Somehow a patchwork bullpen without two key arms kept the White Sox in position for Saladino’s heroics despite blowing a lead for a fourth straight day. J.B. Shuck started the ninth-inning rally with a single to right off Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery. Dioner Navarro’s sac bunt advanced Shuck into scoring position before Saladino fouled off an 0-2 pitch and singled up the middle. Cubs center fielder Matt Szczur couldn’t handle the ball and Shuck scored to set off a third straight wild celebration on the field.
“We’ve been all over the place,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “These guys are resilient. They fight back. They come every day to play hard. You need some stuff to go your way and I think tonight is one of those.”
The White Sox could use a truckload more given what they’ve experienced since the second half began 11 days ago. Not only were they slowed by a horrible West Coast road trip full of close, painful losses, the White Sox have dealt with a number of unforeseen elements over the previous four days.
They battled the heat, rain delays, suspended games and a suspended teammate, which has the bullpen as taxed as it has been all season. Not only have they played eight games decided by two runs or fewer, the White Sox bullpen had to cover all nine innings vacated by Chris Sale on Saturday/Sunday when he was scratched from his start.
Both Nate Jones and David Robertson were unavailable on Monday to help the White Sox nurse a two-run lead. Jones had pitched five times in six days and Robertson pitched three times in a span of 18 hours.
Even though he’d already made 12 pitches and pitched three of the previous four games, Matt Albers returned to the mound in the ninth to preserve a two-run lead. The Cubs took advantage as Javy Baez, who earlier homered, doubled, stole third and scored on Dexter Fowler’s RBI single. Fowler went to third as Kris Bryant singled and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double by Melky Cabrera, who made three big plays in the outfield. Anthony Rizzo singled past a drawn-in infield off Dan Jennings to tie the score. Jennings yielded another single but struck out Jason Heyward to strand the winning run at second.
Prior to the ninth, the White Sox had managed well enough.
Aided by his defense early, Miguel Gonzalez managed to pitch out of several jams throughout the night to keep the Cubs wrapped up.
Cabrera made a spectacular catch to rob Bryant of a homer in the first inning and he and Saladino combined to throw out Baez at home plate to end the third.
But Gonzalez did much of the rest on his own, including twice retiring Addison Russell with men in scoring position. He allowed two earned runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings with two walks and struck out eight, which matched his season high.
The White Sox offense also struck first against Jake Arrieta. Saladino provided the team its first hit with a one-out double to left in the third inning and Adam Eaton singled him in to make it 1-0. They added three more in the sixth on Todd Frazier’s three-run homer, the 29th pitch of the inning by Cubs starter Jake Arrieta.
Arrieta -- who allowed four earned runs in six innings -- threw 37 pitches in the sixth and exited the game. The four runs proved just enough to hold off the charging Cubs until Saladino joined Eaton and Cabrera, whose game-winning hits started celebrations on Sunday.
“With the way we’ve been going, we’ll take any win we can get,” Frazier said. “Eventually, ride that horse and keep on rolling and start winning games without walk-offs. We’ll see how that goes, but it’s a lot of fun. We’re getting back in that fun zone again.”