DETROIT – A Jose Abreu grand slam, an Adam LaRoche tiebreaking three-run homer and a career-high four hits for Melky Cabrera – all in the first five innings of a 12-3 White Sox rout – was pretty much everything Robin Ventura could have asked for on a splendid, 68-degree afternoon in the Motor City.
And, oh yeah, the Sox manager had ace Chris Sale on the mound.
For Ventura, who had taken a pretty good beating on talk radio and from fans on social media for a couple of decisions in the previous two game – both tough losses — the gush of runs from a team that hadn’t hit a lick in its first nine games was like a flowing fountain of refreshing spring water.
“It’s nice to have one of these,’’ Ventura said after the Sox pounded out 17 hits against Anibal Sanchez and five Tigers relievers.
They’re all nice, but this one prevented the Sox from a third straight loss and gives them a chance to win the series with Jose Quintana pitching Sunday to close a five-game road trip. The Tigers took the first one 2-1 on Jose Iglesias’ walk-off single in the ninth, ruining eight very good innings from Jeff Samardzija.
“After that tough loss like yesterday it’s nice to come here and get that deep breath and exhale a little bit,” said Sale, who gave up two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out six over six innings.
It’s early, but with the Tigers bolting to a 9-2 start and the Kansas City Royals close behind them, this is no time for the lineup that’s supposed to be good to go into the tank. But with Adam Eaton (.158), Cabrera (.162), Abreu (.206), LaRoche (.179), Alexei Ramirez (.167) and Micah Johnson (.167) taking dismal batting averages into the Sox’ 10th game, it was beginning to look that way.
From every corner of the clubhouse to Ventura’s office, the Sox say they aren’t worried.
“We’re 10 games in,’’ Sale said. “We have a lot of guys in here who know the gig. We’re not making or breaking the playoffs right here, right now. It’s about staying confident. Letting this kind of stuff roll off. When bad things come you let it roll off and keep grinding.’’
Ventura went on about the way his lineup approached their at-bats Saturday, even after they opened a big lead.
“It can never be understated how good a feeling it is for guys to go out there and do that against a pitcher like that [Sanchez] and a team like this,’’ Ventura said.
“These guys, you can tell in the dugout what they’re talking about and what they’re looking for. But trust throughout the lineup, everybody is going up and having a professional at-bat. Even with Flow [Tyler Flowers], Alexei [Ramirez] is on second base, he pushes something to the right side and it happens to go off the wall. It’s just the mentality and what you’re working for and knowing that you’ve got to get that guy over there.’’
LaRoche’s three-run homer in the third, his third as a Sox, broke a 1-1 tie and Abreu’s slam, his third homer of the year, blew the game open in a seven-run fourth. LaRoche and Abreu each had three hits, a welcome day for Abreu, who was 2-for-13 with five strikeouts in his previous three games.
“Everybody knows what we can do,’’ Abreu said through a translator.
“I haven’t felt like myself at home plate. I’ve been working on it … the first three at-bats were the key for me because we were in a big situations and felt like I used to at home plate.’’