There is one luxury manager Robin Ventura has while he tries to find the right combination to snap the White Sox out of their offensive funk.
Injuries and the addition of Conor Gillaspie now give the Sox enough left-handed hitters to combat tough right-handed pitchers such as the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson.
In fact, Ventura resisted the temptation to start catcher Hector Gimenez, who could have provided a more attractive option because Hellickson had limited right-handed hitters to a .111 batting average entering Thursday night’s game against the Rays.
“We have a lot of choices,” Ventura said. “It’s just one of those where you look at who’s there, and who’s ready to go. We have a good mix now, but you’d like to have your regulars back.”
Thanks in part to left-handed hitters like Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn and Gillaspie, the Sox were able to score three runs in the first against Hellickson held on to win 5-2.
This marked the first time since April 17 that the Sox scored more than three runs in a game. And they did it against Hellickson, who had allowed five runs in his previous 19 innings.
The Sox missed a chance to add another run in the fourth when a perfect relay from left fielder Kelly Johnson to third baseman Evan Longoria to catcher Jose Lobaton nailed Gillaspie, who was trying to score from first base on an Alexei Ramirez double.
But this was the type of aggressive baseball that the Sox hadn’t displayed much of during the first 31/2 weeks in the season.
Dunn snapped a 1-for-15 slump on this homestand when he cranked a two-run homer, his fourth, off Hellickson in the sixth.
The three-run first also gave a cushion for Chris Sale, who suffered from an early bout of wildness. Sale, who had walked only six in his first 26 innings, walked four in the first three innings and at times wasn’t pleased with what he perceived as the tight strike zone of home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.
Sale threw three balls to Desmond Jennings to start the game and ended up walking him. Sale would have escaped the first without allowing a run if second baseman Jeff Keppinger had chased Jennings back to first after fielding Ben Zobrist’s slow grounder.
But after taking a few steps toward Jennings, Keppinger threw to first to retire Zobrist but allowed Jennings to reach second. Longoria followed with a single to left to score Jennings.
Keppinger made up for his mistake when he doubled to score De Aza, and his clever slide past Lobaton allowed him to score the Sox’s second run.