CLEVELAND – As double-barrel throwing outfield tandems go, there is none better than Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton of the White Sox. Eaton leads all outfielders with 17 assists and Cabrera was tied for seventh with 10.
The Astros with George Springer and Colby Rasmus (12 each) and Red Sox with Jackie Bradley Jr. (12) and Mookie Betts (nine) aren’t far behind Eaton and Cabrera, who enjoy showing off their arms and being challenged.
“It’s a part of my game that I am proud of,’’ Cabrera said through translator Billy Russo.
Even though Cabrera, 32, is accomplished at the skill he continues to work at it, often making six or eight throws a day, coach Daryl Boston said.
“He tries to push me to the limits, throwing in different game situations,’’ Cabrera said.
Boston, a former outfielder, said most of Cabrera’s skill is natural “but he has polished it up working on it. His release point and his accuracy have been money.’’
With 100 career assists, Cabrera is fifth among active outfield leaders behind Carlos Beltran (142), Jeff Francouer (134), Ichiro Suzuki (122) and Nick Markakis (101).
Eaton, the hero in Wednesday’s 10-7 Sox victory with his first career grand slam, had an inconsistent release point last season, Boston said, when he had eight assists.
“It’s 10 times better this year,’’ Boston said. “He worked on his footwork during spring training when he was rehabbing his shoulder.’’
Close but no cigars
The Sox’ 43 one-run games were the most in the major leagues, and 68 of their first 119 games have been decided by one or two runs including 39 of the last 59.
“We’ve played [many] one-run games since I’ve been here,’’ said manager Robin Ventura, in his fifth season. “It’s just part of the action. Some of it could be that we pitch and for certain periods of time we’ve struggled offensively. That’s when you end up playing a lot of one-run games.’’
Four teams in the majors have scored fewer runs than the Sox, who play in a hitter-friendly park at U.S. Cellular Field. Sox pitchers are 11th in ERA.
Not close at all in division
In the AL Central, the Sox are 20-28 including a 9-3 record against the Twins. It’s nothing too terribly out of the ordinary for a franchise that was 246-318 against the division since 2009 with one season (37-35 in 2012) above .500.
“To gain ground is really tough if you’re losing head to head,’’ Ventura said. “You have to figure those out and figure out a way to turn that around.’’
Rookie shortstop Tim Anderson hit his seventh home run, off the left field foul pole, to pull the Sox into a 2-2 tie in the third inning. Ventura had Anderson batting eighth for the second time in the series to take some pressure off him, he said, although Anderson has a 10-game hitting streak going.
“Just looking for a pitch I could handle,” Anderson said. “I felt like [Carlos Carrasco] was going to come in and he did, and I was able to get the barrel to it.
“It was great [game]. Great momentum. Very fun to play in that kind of game, especially when Eaton hit the grand slam. It was a big moment for us.” On the farm
Right-hander Zach Burdi of Downers Grove, the Sox’ second first-round pick in the June draft out of Louisville, earned his first professional save Tuesday at AAA Charlotte by throwing two scoreless innings with five strikeouts against Gwinnett. Burdi has pitched 14 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings between AA Birmingham and Charlotte and is averaging 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Over his last eight appearances he has 20 strikeouts while walking three.
Burdi is a likely September call-up.
Second-round pick Alec Hansen (57 strikeouts, 37 2/3 innings) extended his scoreless streak to 17 innings for Advanced Rookie Great Falls at Ogden Tuesday with five innings of hitless ball.