BOSTON — The White Sox are still looking to their offense to regain the run-scoring machine form it held earlier this season.
In the meantime, the pitching has acted as a stabilizing force.
Scott Carroll kept the line moving with 6 2/3 scoreless innings on Monday and his offense did just enough damage as the White Sox defeated the Boston Red Sox 4-0 at Fenway Park.
Carroll and two relievers combined on a two-hit shutout — the team’s third in eight games — as the White Sox won for the seventh time in their past 10 games. Adam Dunn, who homered along with Dayan Viciedo, said Carroll’s effort bought more time for an offensive unit looking for consistency. The White Sox have scored 39 runs over their past 10 games.
“He was getting a lot of quick innings,” Dunn said. “When he has his sinker working like that — he’s obviously not going to blow it past people — but when he puts it in play, it’s usually soft contact and he definitely was the story tonight.”
One of the top stories of the White Sox season so far has been the absence of consistency from the team’s fourth and fifth starters. While Chris Sale and Jose Quintana have been great, and John Danks has been on a roll since mid-May, there hasn’t been as much certainty from the five other pitchers who have made starts this season.
Rookie Erik Johnson and veteran Felipe Paulino were ineffective and gone by mid-April and manager Robin Ventura has struggled to find answers since.
Carroll made two good starts and then struggled enough to be removed from the rotation while Andre Rienzo was good for four outings before he had was moved into the bullpen. Hector Noesi, who is on his third team this season and was converted from a middle reliever into a starter, has been solid, but still inconsistent at times.
But one day after Noesi combined with the bullpen on a shutout, Carroll, Javy Guerra and Zach Putnam delivered another. With his sinker working well, Carroll made sure any gophers inhabiting the Fenway Park infield took up temporary residence elsewhere. Of the 20 outs Carroll recorded, 13 came via ground balls. White Sox pitchers recorded 18 outs on the ground on Monday.
“When he really has his sinker going guys are going to beat it into the ground,” Ventura said. “Made for a lot of work for the infield, which is great. Guys were putting it in play.
“Around the zone, you didn’t see guys hit it hard. That’s a sign of pitching well. Aggressive, around zone, working fast. There were a lot of good things he did.”
Carroll — who allowed a hit and walked two with strikes on 65 of 105 pitches — said he wanted to be more aggressive after allowing 10 earned runs in 11 innings in two starts since he returned to the rotation.
He also wanted to do his part to keep the White Sox pitching staff on a roll. Over the past 10 games, White Sox pitchers have allowed 28 runs, including those three shutouts.
In their previous 82 games, the White Sox had no shutouts.
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“I was thinking about that coming into the game,” Carroll said. “I was like we’ve had great starting pitching and I want to be the guy to continue that success and continue to ride that wave and hand the ball off and be able to be like our staff is a good one and go deep in the games and continue to put up performances like this.”
Dunn would like to match his individual performance again soon if possible.
He homered off Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz in the second inning — a deep solo shot to right field — to put the White Sox ahead 1-0. Two innings later, Dunn doubled to left-center with two outs ahead of Viciedo’s three-run homer to center.
Dunn, who said the two were the first balls he has hit off the barrel of the bat in three weeks, hopes the effort is a sign of good things to come from an offense that would like to get back to the unit that averaged more than 5 runs per in its first 30 contests.
“It did feel good to actually hit one on the barrel,” said Dunn, who homered for the first time since June 18. “Every team has a good run in them. Hopefully we have multiple. Right now, offensively we’re not putting up huge numbers, but we’re still getting wins and that’s the name of the game right now.”