Unlikely trio of hitters lift White Sox to victory

Unlikely trio of hitters lift White Sox to victory

April 26, 2013, 9:30 pm
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Vinnie Duber

The Sox hit three home runs Friday night to power their way to a win. They were probably hit by Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko and Alex Rios, right?

Try Hector Gimenez, Tyler Greene and Conor Gillaspie.

The trio of unlikely sluggers was the difference, as the Sox beat frequent foe Roberto Hernandez and the Rays, 5-4, to take the first two games of this wekeend’s four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.

“It’s all about being there for each other,” Gimenez said. “We’re here together to play and to look for the wins. It’s not about me, it’s not about somebody else, it’s about the whole team. As long as we win, we’re happy.”

Sox starter Jake Peavy gave up three runs before the Sox scratched any across, and it was a 3-1 Tampa Bay lead heading to the bottom of the fifth. But Gimenez led off the inning with his first career home run, cutting it to a one-run game. Three batters later, it was Greene’s turn, as he smacked a two-run homer to centerfield for his first of the season and his first in a Sox uniform. Greene’s homer gave the Sox a 4-3 lead, suddenly putting Peavy back in the driver’s seat.

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“I was excited to be able to contribute and help the team out, get Peavy back in the game there and get the lead,” Greene said.

Gillaspie made it three Sox long balls with a solo shot to right, his second of the year, and extended the lead to 5-3.

Neither of the three home-run hitters were expected to be Sox regulars when the season began. But an injury to Gordon Beckham has forced Gillaspie into an everyday role at third base. A day-to-day back issue sent Greene into the lineup in place of Jeff Keppinger. And a day off for Tyler Flowers resulted in a start for Gimenez. All three came together to provide the formula for a White Sox win.

“There’s also energy when you get guys that get a shot and you put them in there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “There always seems to be energy. And that’s one thing that Hector Gimenez brings when he comes in there. He has energy, and he’s ready to go no matter what. And Tyler had that today, even Jordan [Danks, who was filling in for a scratched Dewayne Wise in centerfield]. So it’s good when you have guys that get their shot and take advantage of it.”

The day was especially memorable for Gimenez. Entering the season, Gimenez was a 13-year minor league veteran, but he had only played 11 Major League games. He’d hit 99 minor league home runs. Friday’s blast was his first in the bigs, and his 100th overall.

“It is really special. I saw the other day on the scoreboard I got 99 home runs in the minor leagues, 100 with this one. It’s very special for me and my family,” Gimenez said.

Ventura was happy to talk about the jolt of energy Gimenez’s presence -- as well as other bench players -- brings to the team.

“Hector, you get him in there and give him some at-bats. He does a great job behind the plate. He does a good job. He’s supposed to be a backup catcher, brings some energy and swings the bat tonight,” Ventura said. “Him, Conor, Tyler with a big one to get us ahead. You take it. It’s a good feeling when you get it from guys getting a shot. Keppinger has a bad back, Tyler comes in. It’s a big boost.”

It ended up being the exact boost the Sox needed after home runs by Matt Joyce and Evan Longoria and an RBI single by Kelly Johnson put Peavy and the Sox down three runs quickly. But after the display of power, Peavy was able to settle in and limit the Rays to no further damage on the scoreboard. He retired 10 of the last 11 hitters he faced.

Peavy grabbed the win Friday, his third of the season, pushing his record to 3-1. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk, striking out six. Ventura decided to lift Peavy with two outs in the seventh, instead opting for a Sox bullpen that has been lights out. The move paid off, even if Peavy was less than thrilled to exit.

“I saved a little bit for Joyce, and I wanted to finish that one and go out and get [Ryan] Roberts out to start the eighth,” Peavy said. “But skipper felt otherwise, and that’s his call. You’re never going to find a time when I’m happy to come out of a game, that’s for sure.”

“He was good,” Ventura said of his starting pitcher. “He had the one inning that was a little rough. You could kind of even leave him in there and let him keep going. It just looked like it wasn’t coming out the same in his hand.”

Things got interesting in the ninth, as Addison Reed allowed a run to score for just the second time this season. But he did what he needed to, getting out of the inning with the lead intact and he picked up his eighth save of the season.

Peavy might not have been excited to leave when he did, but he was excited the Sox picked up their third consecutive win and that they did it with contributions from sources likely and unlikely.

“I think the biggest thing is we’ve got to use our whole roster, yes, like the National League does. We’re not like Detroit who’s going to line up, ‘here we go, man for man.’ We’ve got to have contributions from everybody, and we understand that,” Peavy said. “We’ll see how it plays out. It’s nice to get some guys going. Dunner looks dangerous, is swinging the bat well. And some big homers from Conor and Tyler there. That’s the way we’re going to win. We’re going to win with everybody pulling their weight and being a team.”