You don’t normally volunteer to give runs away when Justin Verlander is the on the mound.
But that’s exactly what White Sox manager Robin Ventura elected to do in the top of the fourth inning on Wednesday night. With a runner on third and one out, Ventura willingly played his infield deep and allowed the Tigers to even the score at 1 on a Torii Hunter RBI grounder.
The gamble gives you an idea just how confident Ventura is in his offense and the way they approached the struggling Detroit Tigers ace. Two innings later, the White Sox made their manager look sharp when they broke the game open by batting around in the sixth. The White Sox scored seven runs and knocked Verlander out of the game on their way to an 8-2 victory over Detroit in front of 18,424 at U.S. Cellular Field.
John Danks earned his second straight win, and Jose Abreu homered again as the White Sox matched their highest output against Verlander, who allowed seven earned runs. The White Sox send Chris Sale out to face Max Scherzer in search of a series sweep on Thursday night.
“Guys were grinding it today,” rookie catcher Adrian Nieto said. “Even with two strikes, guys weren’t panicking or chasing his pitches. It’s contagious. When you see guys putting up good ABs, you want to put up good ABs, too. You don’t want to be that guy that goes in there and gets out on one pitch or two pitches. It helps when guys are putting good ABs in front of you.”
The 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP hasn’t been very good of late.
In his previous five starts, Verlander had a 6.75 ERA over 32 innings with five home runs allowed and only 18 strikeouts.
Even so, Verlander had his foot on the gas pedal on Wednesday, touching 99 mph on the radar. But Abreu injected some early confidence into the White Sox in the second inning when he ripped a 92-mph fastball for his 19th homer, a solo shot.
An inning later, the White Sox loaded the bases with a hit batter and two walks, including a nine-pitch free pass to Nieto.
Even though the White Sox didn’t score, Verlander needed 33 pitches to get through the frame, which ended with a strikeout of Abreu.
By the end of the fifth inning Verlander’s pitch count reached 89.
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In between, Ventura made the call to play his infielders back with Hunter up and Miguel Cabrera on third and one out. Hunter hit a soft grounder to the right side and Detroit tied it at 1.
“We were making (Verlander) work,” Ventura said. “That was part of it. There were some innings there he had to really get after it. You don’t want a big inning there. Johnny was throwing great. You trust them, you trust them at that point to put something together and we made him work.”
The ploy paid off in the sixth.
Abreu, Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez all singled to load the bases with no outs. Dayan Viciedo’s double play then gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead. Alejandro De Aza made it 3-1 with a two-out, RBI blooper to right. Nieto and Adam Eaton both walked to reload the bases, and Gordon Beckham ripped a first-pitch fastball — Verlander’s 33rd of the inning and last of the night — up the middle for a two-run single.
The Sox added two more on Conor Gillaspie’s two-run double off Ian Krol, and Dunn singled in another off the left-hander to make it 8-1.
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It’s the third time the White Sox have scored seven runs against Verlander but first since July 26, 2008. The loss was only the fourth in 17 decisions against the White Sox for Verlander since the start of 2009.
“We got on him,” Beckham said. “He had a lot of pitches. He wanted to stay out there. I’m just glad we got it. There were too many times I feel like he’s left the field on the winning end of that, so it was good to get some knocks against him.”
Danks made the most of a decidedly rare occasion.
He allowed the run in the fourth but didn’t yield another until he led by seven runs.
Danks pitched out of a key jam with men on second and third and one out in the fifth without allowing a run. He allowed two earned runs and six hits over seven innings and has a 1.53 ERA in his last four starts.
“Games like this don’t happen very often in (Verlander's) career,” Danks said. “It’s just the way we feel about our team. We feel like we’re never out of a game. There’s going to be games where guys pitch good against us, but for the most part we feel like we have a chance to win every night and tonight showed that again.”