OAKLAND, Calif. — The White Sox scored all four runs of their runs in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics Monday night, and that was all they needed to win their season opener.
After jumping on 36-year-old left-hander Rich Hill for a four-spot — including two unearned runs thanks to a two-run error that should have ended the Sox’ damage at two runs, ace Chris Sale gave up three in the bottom of the third. But that was it for the A’s. Sale regrouped, put four zeros on the board and let the bullpen salt away a 4-3 victory.
“I think it’s huge, really,” Sale (1-0) said of snagging a win on Opening Day. “You have music playing, you have smiles. We are having fun. So, any time you get the first one out of the gate, it’s like the first strike of the game, once you get the first strike, once you get the first win of the year, you kind of exhale a little bit and just go from there. Business as usual.”
Sale was business as usual with seven innings, eight strikeouts and one walk while allowing one seven hits. Zach Duke and Nate Jones took care of the outs in the eighth inning and David Robertson, after issuing a leadoff walk to Coco Crisp, got three straight outs for the save. Jake Petricka also gave up a leadoff walk in the eighth, which is no way to preserve leads.
The Sox, who also had two runners caught stealing on left-hander pickoff moves (Adam Eaton, Brett Lawrie) committed an error (center fielder Austin Jackson on a bobble charging a base hit), popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt (Dioner Navarro) and had a near collision in short center field (Jackson and Lawrie) on a pop fly.
“It wasn’t pretty, but offensively we got something going [in the one inning],” manager Robin Ventura said.
“Good to get this one out of the way. [Sale] got a win. We got a win, and we’ll take it.”
In the third, Eaton tripled home Jackson with the Sox’ first run of 2016 and scored on Jimmy Rollins’ bloop single to right. After Jose Abreu doubled Rollins to third, Hill (who last 2 2/3 innings) struck out Todd Frazier (0-for-4) for the second time but the Sox were gifted two more runs on an infield error.
A’s shortstop Marcus Semien ranged behind second base to glove Melky Cabrera’s ground ball, but Semien’s throw pulled first baseman Mark Canha off the bag, deflected off his glove, and two runs scored. Canha was charged with the error.
Sale opened his season by pitching two perfect innings before Jed Lowrie poked a two-run single to right with two outs and Danny Valencia’s RBI single scored Lowrie.
Hill, scheduled to start Tuesday, was pressed into service when A’s ace Sonny Gray was scratched because of food poisoning. That made switch-hitting Dioner Navarro the starting Sox catcher instead of lefty hitting Alex Avila.
Sale, who had a comfortable working relationship with the departed Tyler Flowers, said working with Navarro “went great.”
“Same page. I liked it a lot,” Sale said. “He actually got me doing some things that … kind of stepping outside of the box. But I’m looking forward to making that a good thing.”
Sale said Navarro had him throwing two-seamers in to righties, which he doesn’t normally do.
“Really focusing on getting the ball down, too,” Sale said. “He was trying to calm me down as well out there, try not to get too hot when things started rolling for the other team a little bit. I think we have something good going.”