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White Sox hammer Darvish, Rangers for fourth straight win

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White Sox hammer Darvish, Rangers for fourth straight win

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adam Dunn made a late pitch to USATF on Friday night: bring me to London.

The White Sox designated hitter made use of his wheels twice late in a 9-5 victory over the Texas Rangers in front of 47,638 at Rangers Ballpark. Dunns second stolen base of the season scored a crucial insurance run in the seventh inning and he came all the way around from first base on Alex Rios RBI double two innings later.

Those plays helped the White Sox hold off the Rangers in a game in which leadoff hitter and center fielder Alejandro De Aza exited with an unknown injury.

Chris Sale (12-3) earned the victory even though he matched his season-high for earned runs allowed -- five -- and the White Sox gained a game on both Detroit and Cleveland in the American League Central. They are now 1 12 games up on the Tigers.

The White Sox clutched a 5-4 lead when Dunn walked with one out in the seventh inning.

Ten days after he stole his first base in four seasons, Dunn, who promised the previous theft wouldnt be his last, took off when Alexi Ogando didnt pay attention. Catcher Yorvit Torrealbas throw to second skipped into center field and Dunn raced to third. After Paul Konerko was hit by a pitch, Rios had an RBI fielders choice to provide the extra run.

Two innings later, Dunn walked against Ogando with the White Sox leading 6-5. Rios then doubled off the left-field wall and Dunn scored from first. Alexei Ramirez, who went 2-for-5, followed with a two-run homer to left for a 9-5 lead.

Ramirez blast erased any doubts about his condition after a seventh-inning collision with De Aza. The two converged on Craig Gentrys fly to shallow center and smacked into each other. Both writhed in pain on the ground and De Aza ultimately left the game.

Sales fastball topped out at 92 mph and most of his outing included him using a mix of sliders and changeups to keep Texas hitters off-balance. Even so, the White Sox first-year starter managed to keep out of trouble and maintain the lead his team regained for him after the Rangers scored four times in the first inning.

With the game tied at 1 in the first, Nelson Cruz followed solid singles by Adrian Beltre and Michael Young with a three-run homer to right for a 4-1 lead. But Sale settled down.

He retired 14 of 18 batters after Cruz homered, including striking out Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Beltre in order in the fifth inning after starting the frame with a hit batter and a walk.
A leadoff walk to Torrealba cost Sale in his final inning as the Rangers scored once against the White Sox bullpen. Sale gave up five earned runs and six hits in 6 13 innings. He struck out six and walked two.

The White Sox struck first against a very pedestrian Yu Darvish. Youkilis worked a walk and Dunn singled when Hamilton couldnt track his pop up to shallow left field. Konerko then singled and Rios gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly. Rios had three RBIs.

Youkilis got the Sox right back into the contest in the second inning. With two outs, Darvish left a 0-2 fastball over the plate and Youkilis ripped it 425 feet to center to cut the Rangers lead to 4-3.

Two innings later, De Aza followed a single by Tyler Flowers and a hustle-double by Gordon Beckham with a two-run single through the right side of the infield for a 5-4 lead.

Darvish allowed six runs -- five earned -- and eight hits while walking three in 6 13 innings.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

Mark Carman, Scott Merkin and Chris Bleck join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester looks to get back on track against the Pirates? Should he still be the Cubs Game 1 starter in the playoffs?  Len Kasper joins Kap to discuss.

 

How much will Mitch Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game? And will Carlos Rodon end up being the White Sox’ best starter?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season.