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White Sox 3, Twins 1 (10 innings): Avisail Garcia accepts a challenge

Red-hot right fielder hits two-run homer in that direction to help Sox steal series

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

With one out and the go-ahead run on third in the 10th inning, Ryan Pressly went right after Jose Abreu. The aggressiveness paid off, as Pressly kept fastballs largely down and away for a favorable count, then finished him with a slider.

With the base still open and the much hotter Avisail Garcia coming to the plate, the Twins had the option of going around him to pick on Matt Davidson. Instead, Pressly stayed on the attack. He dotted the outside corner with a 98-mph fastball that Garcia swung through. That encouraged Pressly to try another fastball, and he went for the top of the zone with 98. It wasn’t a bad pitch, but Garcia was ready for it. He redirected it in the form of a towering drive out to right. His fourth hit of the game was a two-run blast that gave the White Sox a 3-1 lead, and David Robertson closed it out with another 1-2-3 effort for the series victory.

Reviewing both teams’ broadcasts, the White Sox’ side didn’t understand the decision to pitch to Garcia. Bert Blyleven gave it a semi-endorsement, with the tone of “sure, what the hell, why not,” which ended up framing the moment perfectly:

Garcia drove in fellow Garcia Leury, who reached with a leadoff double thanks in part to a curious route by Danny Santana in right. Tyler Saladino bunted him over to force Paul Molitor’s hand, and the trust in Pressly ultimately backfired after a promising start. Then again, Davidson took Pressly deep in the same direction on Friday, so perhaps that stuck in his mind.

However it came to be, the White Sox ended up stealing a game that didn’t look winnable through seven innings.

Hector Santiago, who went 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA in four starts against the Sox last year, picked up where he left off with seven shutout innings. He scattered six hits and an HBP.

James Shields was almost as game, limiting the Twins to one run over six innings. That 1-0 lead Minnesota nursed into the eighth was a product of two breaks:

No. 1: Yolmer Sanchez’s deep drive to the gap with two outs in the second should have scored Avisail Garcia from first. Instead, it bounced off the warning track and over the fence for a ground-rule double, and Kevan Smith flied out with men on second and third to end the inning.

No. 2: Brian Dozier’s deep drive to center in the fifth inning caromed off the glove of a diving Jacob May, and deflected toward the deepest part of the park with no help in sight. Dozier ended up getting around for an inside-the-park homer for what had been the game’s only run.

That looked like two breaks the Sox could ill afford, what with a lineup lacking Tim Anderson, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and either of the team’s first two catchers.

The seventh inning was a prime example of the talent shortage. Willy Garcia and Sanchez started the inning with a pair of soft singles. They stayed put over the next three batters. Kevan Smith popped out on his bunt, May hit a lazy flyout and Leury Garcia grounded out to third.

When Santiago left, though, the Sox gained some life. Matt Belisle plunked Abreu on a full count with one out, which looked innocuous until Garcia lined a single to right for his third hit of the game. Abreu took third on the play, then scored on Davidson’s sacrifice fly to center to tie it up.

Conversely, the White Sox bullpen threw four shutdown innings after Shields departed. Anthony Swarzak erased a leadoff walk to Byron Buxton with a 5-4-3 double play, and Tommy Kahnle roared back after a Joe Mauer leadoff single to freeze him at first. Nate Jones finally pitched a clean inning with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth, and Robertson pitched his fifth scoreless, two-strikeout inning in as many tries.

Bullet points:

*Shields’ line: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. He seemed like he was able to follow a game plan, using a slow curve early, cutters in the middle and changeups late.

*May is now 0-for-21.

*Willy Garcia was optioned to Charlotte after the game, with Cabrera coming off paternity leave.

Record: 6-5 | Box score | Highlights