Sonny Gray leads Athletics past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

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Sonny Gray leads Athletics past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. — The White Sox offense still hasn’t worked out all the kinks.

Even though he wasn’t at full strength, Sonny Gray didn’t help matters, either.

The All-Star pitcher and two relievers did enough Wednesday night to send the White Sox to a 2-1 loss in front of 16,468 at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rescheduled after a bout with food poisoning, Gray combined with John Axford and Ryan Madson on a six-hitter to outduel Carlos Rodon. Rodon took the loss even though he only allowed two earned runs and six hits in seven innings and struck out six.

“He’s a damn good pitcher,” White Sox catcher Alex Avila said of Gray. “I asked him, ‘How are you feeling?’ and he said, ‘Not too good.’ It didn’t seem that way.”

[BOX SCORE: Athletics 2, White Sox 1]

The White Sox only had one inning with multiple baserunners and three legitimate chances overall against Gray, who originally was scheduled to pitch Monday’s opener against Chris Sale.

Austin Jackson doubled to start the third inning, advanced on an Adam Eaton grounder and scored on a Jimmy Rollins sac fly that got the White Sox within 2-1.

Jackson also put together a nice at-bat in the fifth inning against Gray with Avila on second. But Jackson lined out to second base on the 10th pitch and Avila was caught leaning for an inning-ending double play.

An inning later, Gray walked Todd Frazier with two outs to put two on for Melky Cabrera. But Gray won again as Cabrera hit a short chopper in front of the mound for the final out.

Gray allowed a run and three hits with four walks in seven innings. He struck out five only two days after he required three bags of fluids during a trip to the emergency room.

The White Sox, who snapped a 10-inning scoreless stretch on Tuesday night, also stranded the tying run in the eighth and ninth innings against Axford and Madson. Through three games, the team has a .297 on-base percentage.

“We were chasing some stuff away,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He had good movement on that when he needed to. Caught us being aggressive and wasn’t throwing strikes when we were looking for strikes. He probably wasn’t feeling that great, but he’s still a very talented pitcher and he has great stuff.”

Rodon settled down after a shaky start.

He allowed runs in the first and second inning before he retired 17 of the last 22 he faced.

“He looked great,” Avila said. “He was effectively wild today. At times he didn’t have the best command, but was able to make enough pitches and get enough strikes to where they were still swinging.”

Oakland swung early against Rodon with first-inning singles by Billy Burns and Khris Davis to put runners on the corners. Jed Lowrie’s sac fly only three batters in made it a 1-0 game.

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Then in the second, Mark Canha drove a 91-mph fastball from Rodon on the outer half out to right field for an opposite-field home run and a 2-0 lead.

But Rodon — who allowed 13 earned runs in his final 7 2/3 innings this spring — found a rhythm. He ended the second inning with strikeouts of Yonder Alonso and Marcus Semien and gained steam. Only two more runners reached scoring position in Rodon’s final five innings.

Whereas Rodon walked six batters in his last start in Oakland (last May 15), free passes weren’t an issue on Tuesday. The left-hander continued a trend he began last August of limiting his walks, issuing only one in seven innings. He threw strikes on 61 of 99 pitches.

Still, Rodon desire more from his first start.

“(Canha) hit that ball good,” Rodon said. “I didn’t think it was going to get out. It surprised me. There was some power in it. Then I settled in there and threw well.”

“I like winning. That’s part of it when sometimes things don’t go your way, and that’s baseball. They put the bat on the ball and made things happen early. They made it happen early. I just wish they wouldn’t have.”

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

For six innings Sunday, Miguel Gonzalez was perfect.

The White Sox right-hander put the baseball world on perfect-game alert and conjured memories of Mark Buehrle and Philip Humber with his dazzling work through six innings. Gonzalez lost his bids for a perfect game, no hitter and shutout in the span of three batters to lead off the seventh inning, but that didn’t take away much from how good he was in a 7-3 win for the South Siders at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He was dominant,” shortstop Tim Anderson said, providing an accurate if brief summation of the day’s proceedings.

Gonzalez, who entered with a 3-5 record and a 4.55 ERA in nine previous starts this season, set down the first 18 hitters he faced in order, with the visiting Detroit Tigers rarely even coming close to reaching base. That streak of 18 straight hitters retired to start the game was the longest by a White Sox starter since Chris Sale sat down the first 19 he faced back in May 2013.

Of course, whenever a performance nears no-hitter territory, players know it and stay away from the pitcher in the dugout, afraid of jinxing things. And the White Sox weren’t immune to that baseball tradition on Sunday.

“It was getting quiet,” Gonzalez said. “I was just trying to do my thing. Just go out there and make pitches, let them make the plays and that’s how things went.”

The Tigers — who trailed big after the White Sox gave Gonzalez a 7-0 lead — finally broke through to start the seventh. Austin Romine reached on an infield single, Alex Avila singled through the right side of the infield, and Miguel Cabrera dumped an RBI base hit into right field.

Detroit added two more runs on three extra-base hits in the eighth, but Gonzalez still finished with a great line, yielding just three runs on six hits in 7.2 innings of work.

Gonzalez’s gem snapped a streak of rough outings that started, coincidentally enough, against this Tigers team, when he was crushed for seven runs on 14 hits in an April 30 loss in Detroit. Entering Sunday’s game, Gonzalez was a nasty 0-5 with a 6.99 ERA in his previous five starts. He hadn’t made it out of the sixth inning in any of his previous three starts.

“I started off really good. I was struggling for a couple outings, and all you can do is keep working hard and things are going to happen,” Gonzalez said. “I think if you work hard in between your starts you have a pretty good chance of getting back on track and that’s how I felt today.”

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That seventh-inning blip by the Tigers ended the day’s only drama, as the White Sox offense put the result of the game out of question earlier, tagging opposing starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann for seven runs in his five innings of work.

Zimmermann entered the day struggling on the 2017 campaign, and that didn’t change Sunday. Willy Garcia tripled in Omar Narvaez for the game’s first run in the third and scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. Two hitters later, Melky Cabrera hit a solo home run to make it 3-0.

Matt Davidson led off the bottom of the fourth with his 10th home run of the season, and Narvaez drove in Yolmer Sanchez to make it 5-0. Todd Frazier tacked on two more in the fifth with a two-run shot that also scored Jose Abreu.

“As an offense, we’re trying to give that (big cushion) every night. That’d be nice,” Davidson said. “And it really relaxes them. And you can see what happens when they’ve got a lead and you let them do their thing.”

The White Sox took three of four from the Tigers in this weekend series that featured a doubleheader split Saturday. It’s a positive start to this home stand — which continues with a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox — after going 3-7 on a recent 10-game road trip.

“I'm very happy with it, but again I'm not surprised by it, simply because I think they come out every single day to try to play good baseball and do what they need to help each other out and win ballgames,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It's just their character, the way they're put together. They keep battling.”

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Call it the White Sox latest Cuban connection.

When news came out of the team pursuing 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, it was pretty easy to guess that Jose Abreu, the franchise’s previous big-time, free-agent signing from Cuba, would be involved.

But not only was Abreu involved in the White Sox courting of Robert, sending a personalized message as part of the team’s video pitch, he’s been a willing participant. And now that Robert is officially signed after Saturday’s much-hyped introduction, Abreu is ready to take on a mentorship role, much like he has with another one of the organization’s Cuban prospects, Yoan Moncada.

In the lead up to Saturday’s press conference, it was Abreu touring Robert around Guaranteed Rate Field, chatting with him in the dugout and taking pictures on the infield.

“I was very excited to have him here, and I’m very happy right now because he’s signing with the team,” Abreu said through a translator ahead of Sunday’s series finale with the visiting Detroit Tigers. “He’s a very good player. I just told him that he has to keep working hard and keep doing the things to get here as soon as he can. He’s a nice guy.

“I’m excited to have that opportunity (to be a mentor). That’s something that I like to do. I like to advise the guys and tell them what to do for their best like I am doing right now with Moncada. I’m just waiting for that opportunity to happen with (Robert).”

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While Abreu arrived on the South Side an older, more experienced player who was ready for the big leagues, Robert’s journey to the majors will be a much different, much longer one. Abreu recognizes that and talked about how tough the transition will be. He also has confidence Robert, who has received glowing scouting reports comparing him to perennial All Stars, can succeed.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to come here straight to play in the majors because this is a very high level and a tough one to play,” Abreu said. “I think the best for him is the decision that he’s making for him, to have some games in the minors and let him develop there. He’s had a long time without playing baseball. Baseball in Cuba is good, but it’s not as good as baseball here in the U.S. and you have to adjust. I think that process for him is going to be perfect in the minors.”

Saturday, Robert talked about the White Sox tradition of Cuban players, mentioning how it helped motivate him to sign with the team. Abreu has been one of the franchise’s most successful Cuban players, a list that includes the legendary Minnie Minoso as well as more recent players like Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo and Moncada in the minor leagues.

While that tradition might not be the entire or even main reason Robert is now a part of the organization, general manager Rick Hahn talked about how it’s created an environment that will help Robert develop. Banners featuring Minoso, Abreu, Ramirez and Moncada flanked the table where Robert signed his contract.

Abreu said it’s a tradition he’s very proud to be a part of.

“That made me feel happy and proud. Not just for this organization that I’m a part of, but also for my heritage because I know that this is a very good organization and they are trying to take care of the Cuban players,” Abreu said. “I also feel a huge respect for Minnie Minoso because he was the first one who opened this door here with the White Sox.”

Through his mentoring, Abreu could keep that tradition going into the future. Robert and Moncada are huge pieces of the White Sox rebuilding puzzle, and Abreu is helping put those pieces together for the White Sox.