Marcus Semien lifts White Sox late over Cubs

Marcus Semien lifts White Sox late over Cubs
May 5, 2014, 11:45 pm
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Marcus Semien has had several critical hits for the White Sox this season.

Perhaps none will endear him as much to the South Side faithful as Monday’s night’s two-out RBI double.

The rookie doubled in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning to lead the White Sox to a 3-1 victory over the Cubs in front of 33,146 at Wrigley Field.

Semien’s latest act of heroism helped the White Sox snap a four-game losing streak against their crosstown-rivals and broke open a game deadlocked since the sixth inning.

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“He’s a tough hitter,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He stays in there, hangs in there. No matter what has happened earlier. He could have some at-bats that look a little ugly. But get some guys on base late and he’s been able to come through.”

Semien delivered in a game that seemed like it might never end.

Alexei Ramirez started the rally with the 1,000 th hit of his career, a two-out single to right. Cubs reliever Justin Grimm (1-1) then walked Tyler Flowers and Semien kept a liner just fair for a double to left to give his team a 2-1 lead.

Grimm then hit pinch hitter Paul Konerko to load the bases and walked Alejandro De Aza to force in another run.

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Semien finished 2-for-5. Of his 16 RBIs, 15 have come after the sixth inning.

“I just try to do the same thing every time,” Semien said. “Sometimes it works like that. It’s still early in the season so I’d like to put together good at-bats at all points of the game. But now it’s just happening late. … It’s an at-bat to help the team win so you always feel good about it. You want to continue to stay locked in those situations.”

A once-bruised bullpen has shown equal focus over the past 15 games.

A group of five relievers combined for five scoreless innings to keep the White Sox alive until Semien delivered. Ronald Belisario pitched two innings and Jacob Petricka followed with another. Scott Downs and Daniel Webb (3-0) got the White Sox through a tight spot in the 11 th and Matt Lindstrom pitched one frame to convert his fifth save.

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White Sox relievers have a 1.67 ERA over the past 54 2/3 innings.

“We were a little out of sorts there at the beginning of the season and now we’re putting all together,” Lindstrom said. “We have a lot of guys that are ground-ball machines.”

Jose Quintana was a ground-ball machine as well over seven outstanding innings.

Aside from Jeff Samardzija’s leadoff double in the sixth, hard contact was rare in Quintana’s seven innings.

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He retired the first 14 batters he faced before getting untracked in the fifth inning, walking two batters. But Quintana, who allowed a run in the sixth after Samardzija came around to score on Junior Lake’s sac fly, retired seven of the last nine batters he faced.

He threw strikes on 57 of 95 pitches and allowed a run and a hit with three walks. Quintana also struck out three and matched Samardzija step-for-step in his first start at Wrigley.

“It’s my first time,” Quintana said. “I was so excited for that because it’s a good series, big series, for the city. You wanna get a win but the team won so I’m excited.”

Samardzija was dominant late but the White Sox had early chances to go ahead by more than a run.

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They scored one in the first on Jose Abreu’s sacrifice fly but stranded a second runner in scoring position. Then in the fourth they left two more in scoring position.

Adam Dunn doubled with one out and advanced to third on an Anthony Rizzo error on Dayan Viciedo’s grounder. But Dunn didn’t score on a wild pitch that allowed Viciedo to advance to second and Samardzija struck out Ramirez and got Tyler Flowers to ground out.

Samardzija then retired 12 straight batters into the ninth.

As his pitch count soared, Samardzija walked both Abreu and Dunn with one out in the ninth. But he escaped trouble when he induced a double play off Viciedo’s bat on his 126th pitch.

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Samardzija allowed an unearned run and three hits with two walks over nine innings. He struck out seven.

The White Sox then toiled for eight more outs until Semien provided another winner. Semien had struck out in two of his previous four at-bats.

“You just put it behind you,” Ventura said. “He seems to be able to lock in. Doesn’t let that affect him late in the game especially when you need him to come through. It’s a nice trait to have.”