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.”