The White Sox have had to lean heavily on their bench in June and J.B. Shuck delivered one of the unit’s bigger hits to date.
The backup outfielder’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning on Thursday afternoon capped a three-hit day and a stellar week for Shuck. It also lifted the White Sox to a 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins in front of 26,158 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Despite blowing two leads, the White Sox, winners in seven of their last 10, managed to hang on for their third straight series victory. David Robertson converted his 21st save in 23 tries for the White Sox, who moved back above .500 for the first time since June 10.
“He's been playing great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think getting multiple at-bats consistently has really helped his swing. He was always a good pinch-hitter, but when you put him in there he would sputter a little bit.
“He's been swinging it great.”
Down three key relief pitchers, the White Sox also are without Austin Jackson for at least several more weeks. Melky Cabrera is set to miss one or two more games with a sore wrist. They lost Matt Davidson, who was promoted on Thursday, to a fractured right foot in his 2016 debut. And Avisail Garcia has been inconsistent at the plate, which means there are plenty of at-bats to go around.
Following a slow start to the season, Shuck has started to warm up and take advantage.
In the previous series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Shuck homered twice — his first and second homers since April 2014.
He added a third big hit in the eighth inning off left-hander Fernando Abad when he dumped a single into left to score Garcia, who drew the first of two, two-out walks to start the rally. Shuck also doubled during a fourth-inning rally and singled in the sixth. It was his most hits in a game since April 13, 2014.
“Growing up as a kid, you always play bottom of the ninth scenario, so it’s fun to get an opportunity to do it and come through,” Shuck said. “It’s a big win for the team, and to help out is fun.
“I knew we were going to have a chance there once it got over the shortstop’s head, and to see them score and give us the go-ahead run was a great thing.”
Carlos Rodon was off to a great start before the Minnesota lineup got going.
Ahead 2-0 in the fourth, Rodon allowed back-to-back homers to Robbie Grossman and Brian Dozier with two outs. Before that, Rodon retired the first 11 batters he faced, including five strikeouts.
The White Sox regained a three-run advantage in the fourth inning and Rodon responded with a perfect fifth. But he struggled in the sixth and allowed Minnesota to creep back within a run. Rodon gave up a double and a RBI single before he walked Grossman with one out and Dozier followed with an RBI single. Matt Albers stranded a pair to keep the White Sox ahead 5-4.
Rodon exited after allowing four earned runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.
The Twins tied it with a run off Zach Duke and Nate Jones in the seventh.
The White Sox offense figured out how to attack Tommy Milone and forced him out of the game in the fourth inning.
Todd Frazier got things rolling with a solo homer in the second inning — the 14th consecutive solo homer hit by the White Sox — to make it a 1-0 game. The team is one shy of tying a franchise record with 15 straight solo home runs, which was set from Sept. 2-25, 1965.
Jose Abreu singled in a run in the third to put the White Sox up two.
The White Sox regained the lead for Rodon in the fourth after Minnesota tied it in the top half. Garcia singled in Brett Lawrie, who started the inning with a double.
Garcia stole second base and scored on an RBI single by Davidson, his first big league RBI since Sept. 27, 2013 with Arizona. But en route to scoring in the inning, Davidson fractured his foot running the bases.
After Shuck doubled and Tim Anderson walked to load the bases — his first career free pass in 86 plate appearances — Milone hit Adam Eaton to force in a run and make it 5-2. But Neil Ramirez took over and got Abreu to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
With Anderson, who reached base four times, on second and one out in the seventh, Abreu struck out and Frazier flew out.
That set the stage for Shuck, who is 8-for-18 with four RBIs in his last five games.
“He's coming up getting some big hits, a ball in the gap,” Ventura said. “This is good for him and good for us at the same time.”
It’s getting to the point where White Sox rookies may just want to remain in the minors.
Matt Davidson became the latest victim of an odd trend afflicting the club this season when he sustained a fractured bone in his right foot in Thursday’s 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field. Davidson, who was making his season debut, is the third White Sox rookie to be injured before or during his first game this season.
Outfielder Jason Coats exited a June 4 contest and was given a concussion test after he collided with J.B. Shuck and catcher Kevan Smith injured his back in pregame warmups before he was set to debut in Toronto on April 25 and has played one game since.
“We're hot that way,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think they're afraid to come up. It's odd. I think Smitty was the oddest of all of them.”
A product of a December 2013 trade that sent Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Davidson was promoted to the majors for the first time since September 2013 only hours earlier. He was in the midst of his best month at Triple-A Charlotte since the trade and was named to the Triple-A All-Star Game earlier this week.
Davidson’s fourth-inning RBI single drove in his first run since Sept. 27, 2013 and gave the White Sox a 4-2 advantage. But sometime during his trip around the bases — he reached third on J.B. Shuck’s double and scored when Adam Eaton was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded — Davidson injured his foot. He took an MRI late Thursday and the White Sox expect to have more information on Davidson on Friday.
“You could see it when he went from second to third,” Ventura said. “I know he's not a good runner, but it was remarkably poor at that point for him to keep going.
“It's just crazy.”
Davidson is the latest member of the White Sox to be headed for the disabled list. Earlier this month, Austin Jackson partially tore his meniscus, which required surgery, when he awkwardly stepped on a base. The team is also without three relief pitches as Jake Petricka and Daniel Webb are out for the season and Zach Putnam is mulling surgery as he battles ulnar neuritis in his right elbow.
“You hate to see a guy like that put in the work,” shortstop Tim Anderson said. “I was in Triple-A with (Davidson) and he worked his butt off. It’s sad to see him go down like that.”
A quick look at the injury list for Friday’s match between the Chicago Fire and the San Jose Earthquakes tells two different stories.
The Fire (2-7-5, 11 points) have a few players who are coming back from injury and may be limited, but no players are listed as out, which has been rare this season. Matt Polster could make his return from a concussion suffered June 15 against Indy Eleven. Arturo Alvarez, Collin Fernandez and Khaly Thiam are also listed as questionable for Friday.
Visiting San Jose (5-4-7, 22 points) would love to trade injury lists and have just a few banged up bodies. The Earthquakes have seven players listed as out, including the typical starting centerback pair of Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez.
Goodson has been out with a back injury since starting the first two matches of the season and Bernardez went down in the Earthquakes’ 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy on June 25. When Bernandez left in the ninth minute, Fatai Alashe, typically a midfielder, played at centerback next to Marvell Wynne, who has played centerback but usually plays as a right back.
“You’ve just got to deal with it,” San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear said after the LA game. “Looking down the bench, we don’t really have a center back, per se, so Fatai is the next one in line. It’s just the thought of, ‘What’s the best combination?’ and Fatai was the easy [choice].”
Andres Imperiale, another defender, is also out along with Jordan Stewart, Mark Sherrod, Marc Pelosi and Bryan Meredith.
The good news for San Jose is that Chris Wondolowski is expected to make his return after playing with the U.S. in the Copa America.
“We will have to have the possession, be smart,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said of Friday’s game. “I think they have a very narrow style of play.”
Paunovic spoke of how important Wondolowski is to San Jose. Wondolowski has seven goals in 12 games this season. Next to him up top has typically been former Fire striker Quincy Amarikwa, who has a goal and three assists.
The Earthquakes went winless in the five matches without Wondolowski, including a U.S. Open loss at Portland, and are 0-4-4 on the road this season.
While the Fire don’t have as many injuries, they are coming off shorter rest. The Fire played Tuesday against Columbus in the Open Cup while the Earthquakes were already out of the tournament so they had a few extra days rest.
The Fire are coming off one of the team’s better performances of the year, a 2-1 win against Columbus. Confidence should be high against a wounded San Jose team.
“I think to be fair we’re playing some good football,” Fire forward David Accam said. “For us, even though we’re not getting results I have confidence in my teammates and confidence in this team and I know for sure we will start getting results. For now we just have to keep enjoying what we’re doing and the results will come.”