CLEVELAND – Tim Anderson admits that five strikeout game in Kansas City last week got to him.
“Just a little bit,’’ Anderson said.
Manager Robin Ventura saw it, and dropped the White Sox’ first-round rookie shortstop from the top of the batting order toward the bottom to alleviate some stress.
Not that Anderson shows anything of the sort. He’s calm, poised and quite collected, especially for one with all of 58 games under his belt. His double leading off the seventh inning extended his hitting streak to 11 games and the Sox turned it into a two-run lead, but the Indians chipped away with a run in each of the final three innings in a 5-4 walk-off victory at Progressive Field.
Pinch hitter Tyler Naquin lined a sacrifice fly to center fielder Adam Eaton, scoring Abraham Almonte (leadoff double) with the winning run.
As the Sox finish out the season with relatively meaningless games in August in September, gleaning meaningful performances with an eye on next year is about all that’s left. In Thursday’s defeat that finished off a 4-5 road trip and left the Sox at 57-63, second-year left-hander Carlos Rodon featured an improving changeup over six solid innings – his third straight quality start — and Anderson kept on ticking at a favorable pace.
In Wednesday’s five-run ninth inning rally, Anderson drew a key walk against closer Cody Allen, notable because it was only his seventh of the year but fifth in 48 plate appearances, an encouraging trend.
“I have more of a plan now and I’ve been laying off a lot of pitches and getting a good pitch to hit and being patient,’’ Anderson said.
Anderson is also getting more reps against major league pitching, and putting those to good use.
“It’s getting a lot easier,’’ he said, “seeing the pitchers more than once. You kind of figure them out and know what they’re going to do to you, kind of know how they’re going to pitch you in an at-bat, certain pitches. It’s really good, really helpful.’’
During his hitting streak, Anderson has scored nine runs and is batting .317 with a .383 on-base percentage boosted by five walks.
Rodon is also on a nice run, allowing two, one and two runs over three straight six-inning starts.
“I probably threw as many changeups as sliders today,’’ said Rodon, who struck out Mike Napoli on a 3-2 change to end the fourth and also got the Indians to hit into four double plays, including three on ground balls.
Naquin entered as a pinch hitter for Roberto Perez in the ninth after Dioner Navarro, catching his first inning, allowed Jacob Turner’s high fastball to get away for a passed ball moving Almonte to third. Naquin then entered as a pinch hitter and finished the game.
Chris Beck in the seventh and Nate Jones in the eighth each allowed a run, blowing a 4-2 lead. Jones (2.24 ERA) has been charged with eight blown saves chances and has had a hand in five of the Sox 10 losses where the Sox led in the seventh inning or later.
In the first inning, the Sox made the most of an opportunity presented by right-hander Danny Salazar, who showed some rust making his first start since coming off the disabled list Aug. 2 with right elbow inflammation. Salazar walked three and gave up a three-run double to Justin Morneau, but that was all the Sox mustered till Anderson scored in the seventh.
The AL Central leading Indians (69-50) took two of three from the Sox and beat them for the ninth time in 12 tries.
“Definitely an empty feeling,’’ Rodon said. “All of us are playing hard, giving 100 percent. We are leaving it all out there and it just doesn’t happen. That’s a team that’s on a good run and they got luck on their side and they are playing well.’’