ARLINGTON, Texas -- That he only allowed two runs and a hit over five innings might lead one to assume Erik Johnson had it pretty easy Sunday afternoon.
You know what they say about assumptions.
Nothing about Johnson’s outing was comfortable but the rookie made it work anyway. Even though he only commanded one of his pitches, Johnson worked around five walks and benefitted as his offense poured it on late in a 16-2 White Sox win over the Texas Rangers in front of 35,402 at Globe Life Park.
Jose Abreu and Dayan Viciedo, who each had three hits, both homered, and Marcus Semien had four hits and four RBIs, including a three-run triple as the White Sox snapped a four-game losing streak. Jordan Danks also homered for the White Sox, who had 18 hits, and Johnson earned his first win of the season. But this one was touch-and-go until the White Sox offense roared to life in the fifth and sixth innings.
“You are either effectively wild or effectively lucky,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Probably had a little bit of everything. There was a little Harry Houdini in there.”
There had to be.
Johnson’s act wasn’t strong and required him turning to his bag of tricks quite often.
Johnson threw strikes on 12 of 37 fastballs. His curveball was even less reliable as six of eight were balls.
Many of his early pitches seemed to miss the target Tyler Flowers established.
Two fastballs traveled to the backstop. One kicked off the brick wall behind home plate and didn’t stop rolling until it reached the visiting dugout. Even an intentional ball wound up over the plate.
Johnson issued leadoff walks in his first four innings.
“Off day today,” Johnson said. “Didn’t have my command like I wanted.”
His defense was on, though.
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Flowers threw out a runner stealing in the first inning. The catcher also flipped a perfect throw to Johnson at home plate in the third inning in time to cut down Leonys Martin, who tried to score on a wild pitch. Abreu aided the effort with a nice turn on a 3-6-3 double play in the second.
But Johnson played his part too.
He kept his composure after a second wild pitch, an 89-mph fastball to Kevin Kouzmanoff that missed Flowers’ target by a few feet and allowed the tying run to score. With the go-ahead run on second and one out, Johnson threw consecutive sliders and struck Kouzmanoff out. He and Flowers continued to work backwards and struck out Mitch Moreland with three sliders to end the fourth.
An inning later, Johnson threw eight more sliders and got a 1-2-3 inning. Johnson threw 37 sliders, 28 for strikes.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to Erik for having the courage, for having whatever the heck it took to continue to find whatever he could to throw strikes and get people out,” Flowers said. “A couple of those were pretty wide and I bet you it’s really easy to have something like that get in your head. But I really thought he did a good job of bouncing back and continuing to compete.”
Just like that it was over.
The combination of six White Sox runs over two innings and a lengthy delay on a confusing play that resulted in a failed White Sox challenge sent Johnson to the shower after only 87 pitches.
“He was probably throwing more balls than strikes at that point,” Ventura said. “So just get him out. We got enough guys that have had some time (to rest).”
The White Sox had plenty of offense, too.
Conor Gillaspie broke a 2-all tie with a deep sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. Abreu, who also doubled twice in a seven-run rally in the ninth, homered to deep right field to make it 5-2.
An inning later, Semien followed an intentional walk to Jordan Danks with a three-run triple to left-center. Viciedo hit a solo homer in the seventh and the White Sox were off. They sent 11 batters to the plate in the ninth inning.
The offense was nice.
But Johnson felt just as good about getting through an outing where his command was spotty at best.
“I thought Flow put down some good fingers and he called a good game for what I was working with,” Johnson said. “I did make some big pitches when I needed them. If you can go out and compete without your best stuff and your team overcomes and puts up a lot of runs on the board, it’s a positive.”