BALTIMORE — Brett Lawrie had another big day and the White Sox offense hasn’t been too bad, either.
Lawrie homered in a third straight game and reached base all five times on Sunday afternoon as the White Sox completed a very successful road trip with a 7-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in front of 28,803 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Working behind an offense that scored 41 runs during the 5-2 trip, Chris Sale improved to 6-0 and the White Sox split a four-game set with the Orioles. The win also gave the White Sox a 13-6 record during a stretch with 19 games in 19 days.
Lawrie jumpstarted the White Sox offense in the fourth, two innings after the White Sox came up empty with the bases loaded and no outs. With two outs and no score, Lawrie ripped a 1-2 fastball from Ubaldo Jimenez 404 feet to left field for his fourth home run of the season. He also homered on Friday and Saturday, marking the first time in his career that he has accomplished the feat in three straight games.
The White Sox then dinked and dunked Jimenez to death in the fifth inning. Dioner Navarro and Austin Jackson made up for the second inning when they struck out and grounded into a double play to ended the bases-loaded threat. Navarro singled and Jackson doubled to deep center and Jimenez loaded the bases when he hit Adam Eaton with a pitch.
Carlos Sanchez had an RBI groundout and Jose Abreu singled in another to make it 3-0. Melky Cabrera singled in another run on a blooper to left and Jerry Sands dropped a two-run single into center to knock Jimenez out of the game.
Lawrie walked in between the hits by Cabrera and Sands, his fourth free pass of the trip. He also singled and doubled and reached base in 11 of 30 plate appearances on the road trip. The effort raised Lawrie’s batting average to .290.
The effort was another big one from an offense that has begun to show signs of life after a slow start to the season. The White Sox scored at least four runs in five of their seven games away from U.S. Cellular and averaged 5.86 per contest. The same group scored an average of 3.2 runs per contest in its first 19 games this season.
While Abreu hasn’t flexed his muscles in a while, his bat continues to heat up. A day after he singled in runs in the final two innings, Abreu singled twice more and drew a first-inning walk. He finished the road trip 11-for-29 with six RBIs and four walks.
The outpouring made a laborious day easier for Sale, who needed 107 pitches to complete five innings. Baltimore’s loaded lineup ran a bunch of deep counts against Sale, but didn’t accomplish much else.
He stranded at least one runner in each of his first five frames and two each in the first, third and fifth innings. Still, Sale kept the Orioles at bay, striking out six, including the side in the fourth. His biggest escape came in the fifth inning as his pitch count ran high. Sale walked two, including a 12-pitch free pass to Manny Machado, with one out. But he struck out Mark Trumbo and induced a fly ball out from Adam Jones.
Sale allowed a run, six hits and walked four in 5 1/3 innings.
Four White Sox relievers combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings to close it out.
BALTIMORE — Eighteen hours after it occurred, everyone still seems pretty confused about how baseball intends to interpret new slide rule 6.01 (j).
That was the consensus on Sunday morning from both the White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles as manager Robin Ventura was ejected in Saturday night’s contest after his challenge of Manny Machado’s “illegal slide” on a double play that should have resulted in a triple play wasn’t overturned.
The White Sox didn’t receive a third out for interference in the third inning even though Machado slid beyond the bag, grabbed Brett Lawrie’s leg in the process and then reached back to touch the base.
The White Sox believe they didn’t get the call — one Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Saturday he wouldn’t have had an argument against — because Lawrie never attempted to throw to first base for fear he would throw the ball away. The play was similar to one in an April 5 Toronto-Tampa Bay contest that resulted in the end when Jose Bautista’s slide into second base was ruled as interference.
“I don’t know if I’m more or less clear,” shortstop Tyler Saladino said. “After seeing that play, I guess it doesn’t matter how you slide just as long as the guy doesn’t throw the ball. But if you’re on defense, just do an auto-throw over there because that’s what they say.”
Lawrie said he never thought to make the throw to first base to throw out Adam Jones because he felt Machado made contact. Showalter acknowledged Saturday that his All-Star third baseman got “over-aggressive” on the slide. Neither side believes Machado intended to harm Lawrie with his slide. But once he was touched, Lawrie was worried he might throw the ball away, which would allow Jones to advance into scoring position.
“It’s just how the game is going,” Lawrie said. “You put the rule in place, you have just got to follow through with stuff like that. I just think right now there’s such a gray area because there was a lot of trouble that went down after that Tampa game and I think they got a lot of heat because it changed the whole game and the game ended like that. I feel like it’s just a gray area whether they call it or they don’t. It’s just really up to whoever is on the other side of the headphones.”
Showalter admitted after Saturday’s game he was surprised by the outcome even though his team benefitted. Were he in Ventura’s shoes, Showalter would also have asked for the play to be reviewed. He expected crew chief Gerry Davis to emerge from the six-minute-plus delay and inform him Jones was out at first for interference, which would have resulted in the second unorthodox triple play of the month for the White Sox.
“Where we got fortunate is they didn’t attempt to turn the ball over to first base and didn’t feel like it impacted the play, I guess,” Showalter told reporters. “We’re going to look for an explanation, too, because we would have challenged that, too. When I first saw it, I didn’t think we’d have much argument. It’s a little bit of a, I don’t want to say ‘flaw,’ but there’s been some gray area in a lot of people’s minds. But the way to combat it is to not do what we did.”
The White Sox expect the rule will be modified as it goes along. Major League Baseball previously made changes to rules regarding how catchers block the plate and what constitutes a catch after the transfer process was heavily scrutinized via instant replay.
“Every rule we’ve had has done that,” Ventura said. “We’ve always had some unique plays that happen that end up changing if they look at it further. It makes sense that would go along those lines.”
But as Saladino said, the White Sox lost their manager — Ventura’s ejection was the 12th of his career — and what could have been a critical challenge in the process. He and his teammates just want clarity and they’d like it as soon as possible.
“We’re just looking to follow the rules,” Saladino said. “You make a new rule, we’re supposed to follow it. You can’t just keep doing it, that’s the whole adjustment period. We’re trying to make our adjustments to the rules. It’s a new deal. So we just have to finish the play? They could slide however, but if we don’t finish the play, it doesn’t matter how they slide.”
BALTIMORE — David Robertson kept an eye on the White Sox from Alabama by watching games on TV.
The closer, who has been reinstated for Sunday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles, prefers his normal view from the bullpen. Robertson is available for duty after he returned to the club Sunday morning. He missed the previous three games to attend the funeral of his father-in-law, who passed away Monday after a nine-month battle with cancer. The White Sox optioned Tommy Kahnle to Triple-A Charlotte to make room for Robertson.
“I tried to keep up with the games,” Robertson said. “Watched (Saturday’s) game, which is the weirdest thing I think I’ve ever done. Watching a full game, seeing everyone come in. Was yelling at the TV. It’s harder watching a game on TV than it is being here in person to watch it. I was glad, it was a great win for the guys.”
Robertson — who has eight saves, a 0.87 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings — stayed with the White Sox through Wednesday. He pitched twice in the series in Toronto, posting two scoreless innings before flying home for services on Thursday and Friday.
“I was fine in Toronto,” Robertson said. “Emotions hit me when we got there. He not only was my wife’s dad, he was one of my good friends. We hung out nonstop. He lived with us all offseason. He’s a good man. He was taken too early.”