CHICAGO — After blowing the lead and eventually the game on Monday, Oakland had plenty to make up for against the White Sox Tuesday night.
With the painful, 5-4 loss in extra innings Monday on his mind, Jon Lester (14-10, 2.52 ERA) led the charge Tuesday with an ace-like performance.
But lack of offense has been an ongoing issue for Lester, who had received just four total runs of support while going 0-3 in his last four starts coming into Tuesday night’s matchup.
Lester’s efforts led the way for the Athletics (81-63) in huge bounce-back 11-2 win after losing nine of their previous 11 games. Lester said he tries not to think too much about the runs and focuses only on what he can control:
“Obviously getting the W is very important but at the same time I can’t control that stuff, I just try to pitch to the best of my ability…fortunately tonight guys swung the bats really well, we had a good plan of attack against Danks and we we worked him…we were able to get some runs on the board early and get him out of the game early and we tackled things from there.”
Facing fellow southpaw John Danks (9-11, 5.05 ERA), Lester evoked a sense of urgency, giving up just two runs on seven hits in eight impressive innings.
The drama started in the top of the first when Robin Ventura challenged an extremely questionable call by the first base umpire. The play was overturned, but things didn’t go the White Sox’ way for much longer.
After Lester and Danks dueled through the first couple innings, the White Sox defense made things even tougher for the already-struggling White Sox starter
In the top of the fourth, an RBI groundout from Derek Norris gave the Athletics the first run of the game. Shortly after, an error by White Sox third baseman Marcus Semien scored Jonny Gomes, giving Oakland a 2-0 lead after four innings.
The next time they came up to bat, Chicago made things even easier for the Athletics.
With another quick pair of careless errors, Cocoa Crisp reached on another botched play by Semien, and on the very next play, a bad throw by Danks led to an ugly collision at first base between hitter Craig Gentry and White Sox infielder Leury Garcia.
Gentry hit a bunt single to Danks, and White Sox second-basement Leury Garcia ran to cover first. In doing so, Garcia got in the way of Gentry, who was running at maximum speed.
Garcia was unaffected by the play, but Gentry rolled around first base in pain before struggling to walk off-the-field. Later in the game, it was announced that Gentry suffered a concussion, but his status remains uncertain.
It was a scary spill for the Athletics, but the White Sox (64-80) were the ones that continued to fall in the fifth inning. Capitalizing on Chicago’s defensive mistakes, Josh Donaldson slapped a double over the head of center fielder Adam Eaton, scoring Cocoa Crisp and (pinch-runner) Josh Reddick.
In the bottom of the seventh, a solo-shot from Dayan Viciedo (who previously struggled significantly against Lester) gave Chicago their first run of the night, and a double to deep right from Carlos Sanchez scored Michael Taylor for a second.
But two runs in the seventh inning was the night’s biggest highlight for Robin Ventura’s squad.
After a mini-surge from the White Sox, Oakland poured it on even more, scoring six more runs for an impressive, 11-2 win.
Lester, happy with the win, was immediately looking toward the future and how the team can best keep their heads down while powering through the coming weeks:
“We just gotta continue growing, that’s the biggest thing. We’ve had some balls that were hit hard that weren’t falling and some that haven’t found holes. But the biggest thing this team is built around is pitching and that’s what we’re going to continue do. If we keep these guys in ball games they’re gonna come out and swing the bat like they did tonight more often than not, and we’re going to be winning more often than not.”
The victory should be a huge momentum shift for the playoff-hungry Athletics, and it ensures their status atop the AL Wild Card for now, 1-1/2 games up on Kansas City and Detroit.
Chris Bassitt (0-1, 7.36 ERA) will face Jeff Samardzija (6-12, 3.21 ERA) in his first professional return back to Chicago. The game starts at 5:10 p.m. PDT from US Cellular Field.
Keegan Goudie is the managing editor of MajorOnions.com, Chicago’s unfiltered source for sports, music, and lifestyle.