White Sox supporting cast delivers series victory over Rays

White Sox supporting cast delivers series victory over Rays
April 28, 2014, 11:30 pm
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Don’t forget about the rest of these guys.

While Jose Abreu and his record-setting month have become the focal point of opponents’ game plans, his White Sox teammates have had a fair amount of say in the club’s 14-13 start.

On Monday night, the rest of the red-hot supporting cast delivered again as the White Sox moved above .500 with a 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at U.S. Cellular Field.

Alejandro De Aza and Adam Eaton each drove in two runs as the White Sox won three of four from Tampa Bay to claim their third series victory of the season. Andre Rienzo improved to 2-0 with six solid innings and Abreu, who earlier Monday was named the Co-American League player of the week, singled in a late run to extend his rookie record with RBI No. 32.

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“It’s a good start, to get out of the gate like this offensively to put (2013) behind you,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There’s a feeling you’re going to knock guys in. That’s a contagious feeling when a team gets that.”

The White Sox have had a production outbreak so far.

Whereas the 2013 squad was the first to not score 600 runs for the first time since 1980, which led to hitting coach Jeff Manto’s dismissal, this year’s group has produced consistently from the get-go.

Part of that has been the addition of Abreu, whose impact drew a comparison Monday from Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon to the arrivals of Miguel Cabrera in Detroit and Albert Pujols in St. Louis.

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But the rest has been the consistent tough at-bats provided by everyone in the lineup.

Down 2-0, De Aza tied the score in the second inning with a two-run homer with two outs, his fourth of the season and first since April 3.

Two innings later, Alexei Ramirez continued his scorching start. After Dayan Viciedo, who has a .413 on-base percentage, opened the fourth inning with a walk, Ramirez tripled in the tying run off Tampa Bay starter Jake Odorizzi (1-3).

Ramirez later doubled and has 38 hits in March and April, one shy of Paul Konerko’s team opening-month record set in 2002.

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Two outs later, No. 9 hitter Marcus Semien doubled to left off Odorizzi on a 3-2 pitch to give the White Sox a 4-3 lead.

Tyler Flowers, who is hitting .373, started a sixth-inning rally with an infield single. Semien then walked before Eaton doubled in two runs to put the Sox ahead by three.

Six players in the lineup have already driven in at least 10 runs.

“This is a team effort here,” said Semien, who has 15 RBIs. “Guys just know their rolls and the middle of the order has really driving guys in.”

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The offense’s ability to rally from deficits provided comfort to Rienzo, who bounced back after early struggles.

He allowed a leadoff double to Ben Zobrist in the first inning and then fumbled Desmond Jennings’ bunt attempt and threw it away, allowing Zobrist to score and Jennings to reach second base. Matt Joyce then gave the Rays a 2-0 lead with a deep fly to center that Eaton caught with a leap before falling, which allowed Jennings to score from second on a sac fly.

But Rienzo settled down.

He retired 18 of the next 25 batters he faced, including 10 of the next 12.

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The right-hander got into trouble again in the fourth inning when David De Jesus doubled in a run with one out. But Rienzo struck out Zobrist with runners on the corners and retired seven of the last nine he faced.

Rienzo allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits while walking three batters and striking out four.

“We have more offense this year,” Rienzo said. “That makes you comfortable.”

Ventura has to find comfort in writing Abreu’s name into the middle of the order every day.

[WATCH: Rienzo executed his pitches all night]

Abreu, who hit .310 with five homers and 14 RBIs and shared player of the week honors with Seattle’s Kyle Seager, singled twice and walked in five trips.

Before the game, Maddon praised Abreu, who has established rookie records for March/April with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs.

Maddon said he learned over the previous three games that his pitchers couldn’t make mistakes up in the zone to Abreu, who hit a game-winning grand slam on Friday night and homered off David Price on Sunday.

On Monday the Rays found out what the rest of the White Sox can do.

“With Josey swinging the bat the way he does, Eaton with speed at the top and Semien what he’s doing already with opportunity, a lot of guys feel like they’re going to do something when the get up there,” Ventura said.