White Sox manager Robin Ventura has been using the word “resilient” quite a lot lately to describe his team.
There’s a reason for that.
The South Siders showed off that trait yet again Friday, taking a lead, losing it and taking it right back in a 9-6 win over the division-rival Indians at U.S. Cellular Field. It’s the kind of thing they weren’t doing a year ago, and it’s the kind of thing that’s quickly becoming a trend for this year’s group.
“It can be something that just carries on,” Ventura said after the game. “You feel that vibe every night, that they’re grinding for every at-bat. And you look and you might not have anything going, but you still make a guy have a 20-pitch inning. You just carry that over inning to inning, and eventually you break through. That’s the feeling they have.”
With starting pitcher Chris Sale nowhere near his usually dominant self, the Sox offense needed to step in and save the day Friday. The Sox built an early 3-0 lead, but Sale gave those three runs back on four straight hits to plate three runs to leadoff the top of the fifth. He finished his day after that fifth inning, leaving with three runs allowed on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts thrown in.
But instead of letting their ace getting touched up a little on anything but his best day get them down, the Sox quickly responded. They struck back with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, and after Cleveland scored another in the top of the sixth, the Sox answered with two more runs.
Even when the Indians staged flickering threats in the later innings, the Sox responded. They scored at least a run in each of the final six innings.
“These guys just kind of have some jump when they come out,” Ventura said. “They feel like they’re going to score.”
“You know, it’s just compete,” center fielder Adam Eaton said. “If you compete every pitch, it doesn’t matter what the score is, you go out with your best effort and you compete, good things are going to happen. Guys are seeing pitches and playing good defense behind (Sale) and try to put the best out there. Good things are going to happen.
“It was a great look at the team. They fought back. We fought back, and we continued to fight. It’s good to see this team continue to fight. It’s a good team win.”
Eaton was one of the night’s offensive stars, reaching base in four of his five plate appearances, scoring three runs and driving one in. Conor Gillaspie had a career-high four RBIs. Six different Sox hitters had at least one RBI, and five different Sox hitters scored runs.
And they did it in a manufacturing fashion, another difference from homer-happy teams of Sox seasons past. The first six hitters in the order combined to draw nine walks, including a pair of bases-loaded free passes that ended in RBIs. Only three of the team’s 11 hits went for extra bases, all doubles. Eaton even had a bunt single.
If you need any more proof this is a welcome new trend for the Sox, just ask Sale, who was the victim of horrible run support a season ago, finishing the season with an 11-14 record despite being good enough to finish in the top five in American League Cy Young voting. He’s now 3-0, the first time that’s ever happened to start a season in his career.
“The feel from this year has been completely different. We’re battling, we’re fighting,” Sale said.
“I think if we keep doing what we’ve been doing and making strides in the right direction, we can be a force, we can be a great team. It’s just fun to watch.”