DETROIT — So there go the White Sox, blazing through the Indians, Royals and Tigers of the American League Central for six consecutive wins and building a tidy 13-9 record with one day left in April.
They’re in first place in the division, and, in the words of their very own general manager last week, before we get excited, “let’s give this thing a little time.’’
GM Rick Hahn astutely brought up the false alarm of 2016, when the Sox bolted to a 23-10 start and looked like a contender. And while no one is stepping out and calling this team a challenger, not in what is the first year of a rebuilding phase, no one is dismissing it as a bottom-feeder, either, not after they bailed out a 6-4 victory in 10 innings on a gray and chilly afternoon at Comerica Park.
Left-hander Derek Holland, signed to a one-year deal in the offseason to take innings vacated by the traded Chris Sale, pitched 6„ innings of two-run ball and turned the rest over to Anthony Swarzak (unscored on this season), Tommy Kahnle (three batters, three strikeouts) and closer David Robertson.
It got messy after Robertson failed for the first time after going 5-for-5 in save opportunities, giving up a home run to Victor Martinez on his first pitch and a tying RBI single to Alex Avila to force extra innings. But Melky Cabrera homered against left-hander Justin Wilson, and Avisail Garcia, the Sox’ Mr. April batting .376 with 20 RBI, tripled in a second run to make it 6-4.
With Nate Jones unavailable after pitching three of the last four days, Robertson (1-0), clearly not at his best through a 33-pitch effort, got a second chance and went back out for the 10th and got through a scoreless inning.
It has been that kind of month for the Sox.
“The main thing is the offense was great today, the defense made plays; it was an all-around team win,’’ Holland said. “This is what it’s all about.’’
Holland (2.17 ERA) was good again, and the Sox’ lineup chipped away for a 3-1 lead with an RBI single through the right side by Todd Frazier, a sacrifice fly by Leury Garcia and Jose Abreu’s first of two homers.
Abreu’s second turned out to be a needed add-on run that made it 4-2. After Robertson blew it, Cabrera and Avisail Garcia wiped his stain away.
“Our guys showed a lot of heart coming back after that,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “You might get deflated; they didn’t.’’
“Maybe everyone has written us off, but everyone in this clubhouse hasn’t written us off at all,’’ right-hander James Shields said before the game.
“We don’t think this is a rebuild. We think it’s a reload. We have a lot of good players in this clubhouse, a lot of good, talented players and some good veterans. And everyone is doing their part to win ballgames.
“So our mindset is whether they talk about rebuild or not, we’re going to try to win.’’
“We’re the underdogs, and we like to be that way,’’ said right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who starts the last game of the series Sunday.
The Sox’ pitching has been the best ERA-wise (2.96) in the majors, and the bullpen led the majors with a 1.83 ERA going in. If it stays strong, and the Sox stay within reach of the contenders, what will Hahn do as the trade deadline nears?
Remember the infamous white flag raised in 1997? Remember when the Sox should’ve probably sold at recent deadlines but were buyers instead?
“We have no control over that,’’ Gonzalez said. “We understand how this business is.
“We have an opportunity to go somewhere this year, and we’re excited to be a part of it.’’
“We don’t think about that,’’ Cabrera said. “We’re playing small ball and getting the big hits. We have a very good mix of young and veteran players, and Avi [Garcia] is having an outstanding start. The pitching has been good.
“But we don’t think about what people say and think about us.’’
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