Rios' reaping rewards with new plate approach

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Rios' reaping rewards with new plate approach

NEW YORK -- The White Sox havent yet reached the halfway point and Alex Rios is already only three home runs shy of equaling last seasons 13.

The veteran outfielder -- who is hitting .341 with nine homers and 25 RBIs in his last 32 games -- has a .836 OPS, his highest mark since he was with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007. Though his comeback perhaps hasnt received as much attention as those of Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn, Rios is clearly played a significant role in the White Sox strong first half.

He enters Thursdays series opener at the New York Yankees with .302 average, 10 homers and 40 RBIs. Last season, Rios hit .237 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs. He believes his success is the result of simplifying his process at the plate.

Im focusing on having a good approach at the plate and Im leaving the mechanics out of the equation, Rios said. Im just focusing on my approach more than anything else. (Last season) was tough. Who wants to come to the field and do bad? Now Im focusing on this year.

Manager Robin Ventura thinks a key for Rios is he isnt as concerned about failure. Ventura also noted Rios is more comfortable in right field compared with center field and feels like he can contribute with his glove.

Rios moved to right this season after he spent the previous two years as the White Sox full-time center fielder.

This season, Rios has a 6.9 Ultimate Zone Rating -- a metric that measures the runs a player saves against an average defender at the same position -- in right field, according to fangraphs.com. Last season, Rios had a -7.4 UZR in center.

He feels like hes playing well and I think thats something that pushes guys over the top is hes not worried, Ventura said. In some ways, where guys get to that part where they are concerned about the consequences of not doing well, hes just playing. Hes confident enough he doesnt have to be concerned about results. He feels like hes going to contribute every day.

Rios -- who is signed through 2014 -- admits hes in a more comfortable spot than he was last season. He has done his best to put those struggles behind him. The way the White Sox have played thus far has made that task easier.

Last year is something of the past, Rios said. Im trying to help to us win games. Our team is pretty well-balanced. We have a good offense, good pitching. We have big name hitters who have been doing great and you have to be glad to be part of a team like that. Hopefully we can keep doing good and make the playoffs.

Carlos Rodon strikes out 11 as White Sox top Indians

Carlos Rodon strikes out 11 as White Sox top Indians

CLEVELAND -- Carlos Rodon and the White Sox didn’t allow the Cleveland Indians to celebrate on Sunday.

Rodon had his best outing of the season and the White Sox prevented the Indians from clinching an American League Central title with a 3-0 win in front of 24,118 at Progressive Field. Rodon matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts and allowed just two hits and three walks over eight scoreless innings. David Robertson struck out the side in the ninth as White Sox pitchers struck out eight of the last nine they faced.

Working with a strong fastball and a wipeout slider, Rodon had no-hit stuff from the outset as he breezed through the early innings. The left-hander retired the side in order in the first on 10 pitches and never slowed down. He worked around a leadoff walk in the second inning and didn’t put another man on base until he walked Jose Ramirez with one out in the fourth inning. But Rodon rebounded from that with a strikeout of Mike Napoli and a Carlos Santana pop out.

Brandon Guyer ended Rodon’s no-hit bid with a leadoff single to center in the fifth inning and Coco Crisp followed with a walk. Both runners moved into scoring position on a sac bunt but Rodon toughened up and escaped the jam. Michael Martinez’s fly out to shallow right wasn’t deep enough to score Guyer from third and Rodon blew a 95-mph fastball past Rajai Davis to strand the pair in scoring position.

From there Rodon was superb. He retired the side in order in the sixth and eighth innings, including striking out all three men in the latter. Rodon struck out five of seven batters between the seventh and eighth innings to establish a new season-high and tie his career mark with 11.

The White Sox offense provided just enough support for Rodon against Josh Tomlin and Co.

Todd Frazier’s leadoff single in the fifth inning and stolen base set up the team’s first run as Carlos Sanchez singled to left with two outs to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead.

The White Sox later capitalized on a Michael Martinez error as they loaded the bases with one out. Pinch runner J.B. Shuck tagged on Sanchez’s fly ball to shallow center and scored even though the throw beat him as catcher Chris Gimenez couldn’t hang onto the ball.

Frazier drew a one-out walk in the ninth, stole second base and advanced to third on an error. Omar Narvaez then provided insurance with a two-out RBI single to put the White Sox up by three runs.

Frazier’s 14 steals are the most by a White Sox third baseman since Luis Salazar stole 14 in 1985. 

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