All Robin Ventura wanted out of the break was to see more positives than negatives from his White Sox players.
They might have started slowly but those pluses arrived in bunches late in a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros in front of 28,777 at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday night. Dayan Viciedo homered, Tyler Flowers doubled in the go-ahead run and White Sox pitchers retired the last 22 batters they faced as they came out of the All-Star break with their seventh win in 11 games. Zach Putnam earned his second save for the White Sox with two strikeouts in a scoreless inning.
“You feel refreshed and energized and you are looking for good things to happen, good signs,” Ventura said. “(Flowers’ hit is) one of them. Bullpen did a nice job. Tanky hit a home run. There are some good things that happen you like to see coming right out of the break.”
Even though he felt good about the work he has done of late, Flowers didn’t have much to show for it. After he struck out 34 times in 76 plate appearances in June, Flowers has put the ball in play more frequently in July but only had three hits in 33 plate appearances.
He gave himself some early confidence out of the All-Star break however when he doubled with one out in the seventh inning to drive in Alejandro De Aza to break a 2-all tie. De Aza, who had two hits in three trips, singled and stole second base ahead of Flowers’ hit, his first RBI in 13 days.
“It was good timing,” Flowers said. “I’ve been feeling good for the last 10 games. Really haven’t had a whole lot of success statistically, but definitely feeling a lot better, seeing the ball better. But it was nice to kind of see a lot of working we’ve been doing pay dividends, especially in a situation like that.”
The success rate of a White Sox bullpen that has dealt with key injuries most of the season fluctuated drastically over the team’s first 96 games. But after Houston scratched and clawed to drive Jose Quintana out after five innings, the White Sox bullpen took over.
Flashing a fastball that touched 97 mph, Daniel Webb struck out three over two scoreless innings. Ronald Belisario also touched 97 in his scoreless inning, and Putnam closed it out with a pair of strikeouts.
The White Sox pitching staff combined on a three-hitter and struck out 14.
“It feels good to be able to take some time off and rest a little bit and come back out here and get a win,” Putnam said. “I think everybody was just dragging. Some guys had physical stuff going on, other guys just kind of mental tiredness. The four days couldn’t come at a better time. Everybody kind of got recharged and hit the ground running.”
With the White Sox down two runs in the sixth, Viciedo put a charge into a first-pitch curveball from Scott Feldman for a game-tying home run to center field. The homer was the 12th of the season for Viciedo, who also walked.
An inning later, De Aza singled with one out and stole second base — his 13th in 19 tries — to set the stage for Flowers.
The White Sox are hopeful Friday’s victory sets the tone for a resurgent second half.
“You almost have to start back up and get a good vibe or good feelings going forward,” Ventura said. “So with Tanky, that’s a step in the right direction. I think Jose (Abreu) didn’t waste any time. But you’ll take it. You start seeing at-bats in the middle and later in the game that guys are grinding through it and you are able to fight back and get those runs.”