‘Cleaner’ White Sox reach .500 after dropping Marlins 5-3
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org May 26, 2013 8:04PM
Updated: May 26, 2013 9:23PM
Memorial Day might signal the start of summer, but it’s only an early mark in a baseball season.
‘‘Your team kind of goes through different things during the season,’’ White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Sunday. ‘‘We didn’t start off that great, but in the last couple weeks, we’ve gained some footing — just the feeling of going out and feeling you’re going to win games.
‘‘It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or who’s throwing or anything like that. You feel better about your team the way it’s playing.’’
Winning nine of their last 12 games has shown how much better the Sox are playing, bringing them back to .500 at 24-24 for the first time since April 10.
They did it by completing their first three-game sweep of the season with a 5-3 victory over the 13-37 Miami Marlins, still baseball’s weakest team.
‘‘You have to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat,’’ said Adam Dunn, whose two-run homer in the first inning off Alex Sanabia (3-7) gave Dylan Axelrod (3-3) a lead and broke an 0-for-17 stretch.
‘‘You need to win the games you’re supposed to,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘We’ll take them.’’
Ventura was as happy about how the Sox won — with crisper defensive play and timely hitting.
‘‘I just think we’re playing a cleaner game — that’s what I feel better about,’’ he said. ‘‘The record is going to end up being the record, but it’s how we play [and] focus.’’
Despite their record, the Marlins didn’t make the series easy. They took the Sox to extra innings Friday, tied the game in the ninth Saturday and tested the Sox’ defense Sunday.
But the defense shined, in particular in two plays at the plate. One came in the second inning when left fielder Dayan Viciedo threw out Chris Coghlan trying to score from second on a single. The other came in the sixth when catcher Hector Gimenez took a throw from right fielder Alex Rios and blocked Marcell Ozuna from the plate as he tried to score.
‘‘Those were huge,’’ Axelrod said. ‘‘That’s the difference in the game.’’
Axelrod gave up three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings, with the Marlins getting only one more hit against relievers Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Addison Reed, who earned his 17th save.
‘‘We’re playing the same way we’ve been playing all year, but things are starting to click and everybody is coming through,’’ Reed said. ‘‘Earlier in the year, either our offense was producing and our pitching wasn’t or vice versa. Now, everything is clicking and we’re playing the ball we know how to play.’’
Crain is on the best stretch of his career, with 20 consecutive scoreless appearances and 18 1/3 scoreless innings. Captain Paul Konerko, who was hitting only .189 in his previous 23 games, is on a four-game streak hitting .563 (9-for-16). And Viciedo is hitting .392 with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI in 16 games since returning from the disabled list May 10.
‘‘After our tough start, we feel pretty good about [.500] right now,’’ Axelrod said. ‘‘It’s kind of that point in the year where you turn it on a little bit, and being .500, we feel like now the only way is up. Good things are happening.’’