Rios' late blast helps Sox take down Mariners

Rios' late blast helps Sox take down Mariners

April 6, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Alex Ruppenthal

White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod said he had to step off the mound a few times to avoid being blown off-balance by the 25-mph wind that gusted through U.S. Cellular Field throughout the Sox-Mariners game Saturday.

But it was Seattle's starter, 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, who seemed most affected by the conditions. Absent was the right-hander's mid-to-upper 90-mph fastball. In fact, Hernandez's heater sat in the high 80s for the most part.

They waited until the fourth to record their first hit, but the Sox eventually took advantage of Hernandez's off day, winning 4-3 in front of 22,461 behind Alex Rios' two-run homer and a solid performance form Axelrod, who survived the wind.

[MORE: Quality starts, bullpen key to White Sox's early success]

"About as close as you can get to Candlestick, I guess," Sox manager Robin Ventura said, referring to the Giants' old ballpark, which was known for hosting swirling and unpredictable winds.

With the game tied at 1 in the sixth, Rios came up with one man on and fell behind 0-2. But Hernandez threw a change-up that never dropped, and Rios clobbered it to left for a 417-foot homer to put the Sox ahead 3-2.

"He wasn't as usual (Saturday)," Rios said of Hernandez. "He (usually) throws 94-95, and he was in the low-90s today."

Most of Hernandez's fastballs read 88 or 89 on U.S. Cellular's right-field scoreboard.

"I was expecting him to be throwing a little bit harder," said Conor Gillaspie, who had two hits in his first start with the Sox. "I don't know if if was the elements or whatever."

Gillaspie tripled to lead off the fifth and scored the Sox' first run on a sacrifice fly by catcher Hector Gimenez, who also made his first start of the year. Gillaspie led off with another hit in the seventh and came around to score the decisive run on Alejandro De Aza's sac fly.

The Sox acquired Gillaspie, 25, in a February trade with the Giants, and he made the most of his first start.

"He looked good today. For Conor, he wants to be a storm-chaser, it's a perfect day for him," said Ventura, referencing Gillaspie's interest in weather.

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The day wasn't without butterflies, though.

"I was pretty nervous today," Gillaspie said. "I'm not going to lie."

Gillaspie's second run gave the Sox insurance for the eighth inning, when Mariners' leadoff hitter Michael Saunders hit a two-run homer off Matt Thornton to make it 4-3. Thornton then gave up a single and was removed for Jesse Crain, who walked Michael Morse to put the tying run on second with one out. But Crain struck out Raul Ibanez and got Justin Smoak to ground out to end the inning and preserve the one-run lead.

Sox closer Addison Reed retired the side for his third save in three chances. Donnie Veal, who replaced Axelrod and got out of a jam in the sixth, earned the win.

Axelrod figured to be overmatched coming into the game against Hernandez, but he kept pace with Seattle's ace, going 5 2/3 innings and giving up one unearned run.

"I threw a lot of fastballs in," Axelrod said. "Just trying to stand them up, go fastballs in and then soft away for the most part. I don't throw the ball in that much. I think that might be the report on me. But just to make them aware, that was good."

[WATCH: Axelrod proud of his effort in windy conditions]

Axelrod's performance was a good sign for the Sox, who are waiting on John Danks to return after having shoulder surgery last August.

"(Axelrod) was great," Ventura said. "It was just one of those, he did what he needed to do to get us to that point."

Ventura was also impressed with Gillaspie and said he would probably play again Sunday.

"He's a tough kid and plays hard and has a compact swing that has a lot of pop with it too," Ventura said.