Sale struggles; Thornton's wild pitch dooms White Sox

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Sale struggles; Thornton's wild pitch dooms White Sox

LOS ANGELES -- The anticipated duel between Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale never materialized. Both aces folded midway through a seesaw game that went to the Los Angeles Dodgers because their relievers performed a little bit better than their counterparts on the Chicago White Sox.James Loney scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by Matt Thornton in the eighth inning, and the Dodgers beat the White Sox 7-6 on Friday night in the opener of an interleague series between division leaders.Alex Rios hit his second homer of the game in the top half of the eighth, but the Dodgers went in front again in the bottom half.Loney started the winning rally with a one-out single against Thornton (2-4). Dee Gordon walked and Elian Herrera grounded into a fielder's choice, putting runners at the corners. Bobby Abreu batted for Ronald Belisario (2-0) and Gordon took off for second as Thornton's first pitch to Abreu bounced past A.J. Pierzynski."We weren't holding the guy on, so there was no need to rush the pitch," Pierzynski said. "He just made a bad pitch. It happens."Belisario pitched 1 1-3 innings for the victory and Kenley Jansen worked a perfect ninth for his 11th save in 14 chances.Kershaw was charged with five runs - four earned - and eight hits over six innings with seven strikeouts."Baseball goes in cycles and it has its ups and downs," Kershaw said. "I mean, this game's not easy. Just because you had a couple of good starts, this game will continue to humble you. So you've just got to keep battling and competing."They have some big-name guys over there. The lack of familiarity didn't really bother me too much, but it's definitely different that facing the same teams in the NL West over and over again. That's for sure."Sale, trying to win his sixth straight start, took an AL-leading 2.05 ERA into his marquee matchup against Kershaw, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. But Chicago's 23-year-old left-hander didn't get out of the sixth inning as the Dodgers rallied against Sale and Jesse Crain for five runs, giving them a 6-5 lead."Usually when we've had Sale on the mound, we're in pretty good shape. But they battled and just beat us," slugger Adam Dunn said.

Ivan De Jesus hit for Kershaw during the big rally and singled home a run to trim Chicago's lead to 5-3 after an RBI double by Juan Uribe. Gordon came up after De Jesus and bunted a line drive that tipped off the glove of first baseman Paul Konerko. But second baseman Gordon Beckham, heading toward first to cover on the botched sacrifice, was right there to catch it.At that point, rookie manager Robin Ventura replaced Sale with Crain, who gave up a tying two-run double by Herrera and an RBI single by Juan Rivera that gave the Dodgers their first lead. But Rios erased that advantage when he belted a leadoff drive in the eighth.Sale was charged with five runs, seven hits and a season-high four walks in 5 2-3 innings after allowing no more than three runs in any of his 11 previous major league starts."You feel good with him on the mound and a 5-1 lead in the sixth inning with the way he's been throwing, but tonight he just didn't get it done," Pierzynski said. "He walked too many guys. He walked Jerry Hairston three times, he walked Dee Gordon twice, and a couple other guys. That just can't happen. We were behind in the count on every guy."Dunn gave the White Sox a 2-0 lead in the first, driving an 0-2 pitch to right for his major league-leading 23rd homer and fourth of his career against Kershaw. The 12-year veteran has connected in each of his last five starts."Against a guy like Kershaw, if you can get early runs it's great," Dunn said. "He's obviously one of the best in the game, if not the best, so you try to be aggressive and try to get something you can hit because he's got so many good pitches. I fell behind 0-2, so I was just trying to put the ball in play and ran into one."The Dodgers also scored in the first when Gordon walked and came all the way around on Herrera's double. Herrera advanced on Pierzynski's sixth passed ball of the season, but was stranded when A.J. Ellis grounded out.The third inning began a string of three consecutive innings in which the White Sox scored one run. Konerko hit an RBI single, Alexei Ramirez scored on a throwing error by Gordon after he charged Orlando Hudson's infield hit to shortstop, and Rios added his seventh homer to make it 5-2.NOTES: Dunn has homered seven times in 74 at-at-bats against lefties, compared to none last season in 94 at-bats. ... Sale, who spent his two previous big league seasons as a reliever, batted in a regular-season game for the first time and had two strikeouts along with a sacrifice bunt. ... This is the sixth interleague series between the Dodgers and White Sox, who have shared the Camelback Ranch spring training facility at in Glendale, Ariz., since 2009. ... Kershaw's only other regular-season start against the White Sox was on June 26, 2008, when he pitched four innings in a 2-0 loss to John Danks at Dodger Stadium.Box scoreCopyright2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Preview: White Sox aim for 20th win in series finale vs. Red Sox on CSN+

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Preview: White Sox aim for 20th win in series finale vs. Red Sox on CSN+

The White Sox aim for win No. 20 in their series finale against the Boston Red Sox tonight on Comcast SportsNet Plus. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Henry Owens (0-0) vs. Erik Johnson (0-0)

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David Ortiz paces Red Sox past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

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David Ortiz paces Red Sox past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

He may be headed for retirement, but David Ortiz doesn’t intend to cruise out the door.

The slugger put his team ahead with a fifth-inning home run Wednesday night off White Sox starter Carlos Rodon and the Boston Red Sox didn’t look back. Ortiz drove in three runs and the Red Sox scored twice more late to snap a three-game losing streak for the White Sox, who fell 5-2 in front of 14,383 at U.S. Cellular Field. Rodon’s record dropped to 1-4 as he allowed three earned runs in six innings. Jose Abreu homered, but that was all for the White Sox, who were stymied by seven sharp innings from Clay Buchholz.

Trailing 2-1 in the fifth inning, Ortiz made Rodon pay for a two-out walk to Xander Bogaerts, who reached base in his first four plate appearances. Ortiz ripped a 1-1 fastball from Rodon, who walked three, out to deep right field to give Boston a 3-2 advantage.

It was the sixth homer of the season and 509th of his career for Ortiz, 40.

But he wasn’t done yet.

Ortiz followed a pair of one-out singles in the seventh inning with one of his own against Zach Duke. He beat a White Sox shift and dribbled a single through an open spot on the left side of the infield to drive in run No. 22 on the season and put Boston ahead 4-2.

Ortiz, who announced he will retire after the season, is hitting .311.

The Red Sox added another run in the eighth inning on an RBI single by Josh Rutledge. Bogaerts produced the team’s first run with a two-out single in the third off of Rodon.

The White Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Abreu took Buchholz deep to end a homerless stretch of 61 plate appearances that dated back to April 19. But Buchholz settled in and retired 19 of the last 22 batters he faced, including 10 in a row.

Buchholz limited the White Sox to two runs and three hits while striking out six.

Jose Abreu's hot streak a good sign for White Sox

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Jose Abreu's hot streak a good sign for White Sox

Jose Abreu made it official on Wednesday night -- he’s on fire.

Everyone around the White Sox has known this hot streak would soon arrive. They saw signs in Toronto and again in Baltimore as he began to drive the ball to right with authority. They heard the sounds his lumber produced when he smacked another pitch.

But the first baseman confirmed it in the first inning Wednesday when he snapped a 61-plate appearance homeless streak with a towering two-run homer to left. And the idea that the White Sox have played as well as they have without consistent production from Abreu has the club very optimistic about its chances to contend this season.

“It’s awesome,” leadoff man Adam Eaton said. “You know it’s going to happen. He’s never not going to get going and be the type of hitter he is.”

“You’ve seen the month we’ve had and realistically without him producing a tremendous amount, without really the hitters producing a tremendous amount. The pitching staff has really carried us.”

Abreu has been a dominant force in the lineup in each of his two previous seasons. The 2014 American League Rookie of the Year has produced 9.3 Wins Above Replacement in his first two seasons, according to baseball-reference.com.

But until this last week, Abreu hasn’t been himself.

He hit .229/.303/.354 in April with 13 RBIs, the fewest he’s ever had in the opening month of the season. He chased pitches that weren’t his and got away from his game, rifling inside fastballs to right field. Yet the lengthy slump from a player who hit .303/.364/.540 with 66 homers and 208 RBIs in his first two seasons hasn’t dramatically hurt the White Sox, who entered Wednesday with the best record in the AL.

Abreu said the stretch reminds him of 2009 when he got out to a slow start and his team, the Elefantes de Cienfuegos, continued to play well in the Occidental Division of the Cuban National Series. Despite Abreu’s early slump, Cienfuegos finished in second place in the division and earned a postseason birth as it did in each of Abreu’s final eight seasons.

“I’ve had this moment before in Cuba,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I was struggling and the team was winning games.

“We won that year. That’s the same kind of feeling as I’m having right now because we’re getting all together, working hard and pulling in the same direction and that’s probably something God has for us for the season and I’m happy.”

Manager Robin Ventura might like similar results from this situation. Abreu finished the 2009 season hitting .399/.555/.822 with 30 homers and 76 RBIs in 393 plate appearances. Projected out to 600 plate appearances, Abreu would wind up with 45 round-trippers, or nine more than his career high.

No matter what kind of numbers Abreu produces, it’s clear he’s in a better position to do it after a slow start. From April 25 through Tuesday, Abreu hit .406/.486/.531 with nine RBIs in 37 plate appearances. While he hadn’t gone deep in that span, Abreu walked five times and struck out only three.

Abreu said it’s a function of improved timing. He feels right when he drives the ball on a line to right as he did throughout a four-game series in Baltimore. Those are the signs Ventura has seen plenty of lately.

“It sounds better,” Ventura said. “His hands work better. It just seemed like he could pull the inside pitch a little better and drive some more to right field. He was working on it, probably gave up a couple of at-bats trying to find it, knowing it might not look right. We could tell what he was trying to do, and I think it has helped him as we got home, how it feels for him.”

Eaton looks forward to what it can mean for the White Sox. The offense entered Wednesday with 45 runs in the past eight games after it produced 62 in the first 21.  

“He stays inside the ball really well, he goes the other way really well,” Eaton said. “That’s where his power is and somebody hangs one, he’ll pull it

“When he starts doing that and barreling balls the other way, and they throw a 95-mph heater on the inside part of the plate, he shoots it to right with authority and that’s when you know Jose is going.

“It should be interesting once he gets going and gets in a rhythm.”