As aggressive as he is, Alexei Ramirez never had a hit on a 3-0 pitch in his career.
Guess you could say the first came in grand fashion.
The shortstop’s grand slam highlighted a seven-run fourth inning on Friday night as the White Sox routed the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-3 in front of 19,118 at U.S. Cellular Field. Jose Abreu and Tyler Flowers also homered as the White Sox won for the fifth time in six tries and moved back above .500.
Ramirez, who also tripled in four at-bats, has a .342/.368/.521 slash line with four homers and 25 RBIs in 37 games.
“(Ramirez) seems to be doing everything pretty well,” Flowers said. “He’s aggressive at the right times, patient at the right times, swinging at good pitches. Having good at-bats, long at-bats, which I don’t really recall him necessarily always being a guy to have long at-bats. But he’s a guy up there that’ll compete, that’ll draw a walk and do all those kind of things. Hopefully he does that for another five months.”
After they went 0-for-9, the White Sox already had five hits and tied the score at 2 when Ramirez stepped in against Diamondbacks starter Brandon McCarthy in the fourth inning.
Ramirez worked a 3-0 count against McCarthy and then ripped a 95-mph sinker into the left-field bullpen for a 6-2 White Sox lead. Before the grand slam, Ramirez never had a hit in the 67 plate appearances in which he produced a result on a 3-0 pitch. Prior to the blast, Ramirez had two sacrifice flies and 65 walks.
The White Sox, who finished with 15 hits, tacked on one more before the nine-hit rally that knocked McCarthy out of the game ended.
Alejandro De Aza, who went 3-for-5, singled in a run. Gordon Beckham and Abreu, who went 3-for-4 despite a sore left ankle, both singled in runs to help the White Sox come back from a 2-0 deficit.
“The first time around he was able to throw his sinker,” Ramirez said through a translator. “He was able to throw his curveball efficiently. The second time I just kind of laid off of that. The second time around I laid off of that stuff and that’s how I was able to get a good pitch and I think that’s what everyone else did.”
While much of the attention has been bestowed upon Abreu for his mammoth home runs, Ramirez has performed at an All-Star level so far. Not only does have a game-winning homer to his credit in April, he also started the season with a franchise-record 17-game hit streak and established a club record with 40 hits in March and April.
Therefore the White Sox had no reservations with Ramirez swinging 3-0 against McCarthy.
“He got a good pitch to hit and he did something with it,” bench coach Mark Parent said.
Ramirez said he doesn’t remember ever getting off to a hot start like the one he’s on. But the seventh-year pro, who earlier this week notched his 1,000 th career hit, said he’s only focused on looking ahead.
“The only time I can think of is when I was playing in Cuba that I had a few days like that,” Ramirez said. “But you know what? Today is over and now we’ve got to look forward to the next days coming up.”
The White Sox are looking ahead to when they might be able to give Abreu a day off.
His sore ankle still didn’t slow him down much amid concerns that it might.
Making his second start at designated hitter, he put any fears to rest with singles in the fourth and fifth innings and a 442-foot homer to center that landed between the hedges in the seventh inning.
Parent said Abreu is likely to start at DH again on Saturday and the White Sox hope to get him a day off on Wednesday. The White Sox, who have already reduced Abreu’s early work and are off Thursday, are hopeful 48 hours off will get Abreu back to 100 percent.
“You don’t see balls get hit like that very much,” Parent said. “We’ll do the same thing tomorrow DH, and somewhere on the road try to get him a couple of days off.”
Flowers also stayed hot with two hits, including a solo homer in the eighth inning, his second.
Andre Rienzo fell behind 2-0 in the third inning on Gerardo Parra’s two-run homer to right-center, a 399-foot laser.
But the right-hander mostly settled in from there. Rienzo allowed another run in the fifth inning, allowing three and four hits over 5 2/3 innings.
White Sox relievers Zach Putnam, Ronald Belisario and Matt Lindstrom combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings to close out the victory.