White Sox clip Tigers to open up three-game lead

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It wasn’t exactly a classic duel, but the White Sox put themselves another game up in the AL Central by beating the Tigers 5-4 in Monday’s makeup game.

The game’s decisive play took place in the fifth, when Dayan Viciedo hit a grounder to short with the bases loaded and one out. Jhonny Peralta decided to stay back on the ball, and by the time he made the feed to Omar Infante, Alex Rios was at second base ready to take out the defender. It led to a poor throw that Prince Fielder was unable to scoop, giving the White Sox two runs.

The game also featured Viciedo making a diving catch in left field and then having a ball go off his glove on back-to-back plays. The White Sox got their first run because of a HBP with the bases loaded. In the bottom of the eighth, DeWayne Wise, the White Sox’s best hitter on the day, took a run off the board by trying to go from second to third on a flyout. He was tagged well in front of the bag before Gordon Beckham could touch home and give the White Sox an insurance run.

Fortunately, that didn’t prove costly. White Sox manager Robin Ventura used three pitchers in the top of the ninth, getting one out apiece from Brett Myers, Matt Thornton and Addison Reed.

The winning pitcher was reliever Nate Jones, who worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Jose Quintana. He’s now 8-0 this season. If he can avoid a defeat from here, he’d become the 15th pitcher since 1901 to win at least eight games in a season without taking a loss. The last was Arizona’s Micah Owings last year. The last to go at least 9-0 was the Yankees’ Aaron Small, who went 10-0 in 2005.

Delmon Young drove in three of the four runs for the Tigers. Something about facing the White Sox brings out the best in him. He’s hit .333 with 13 homers in 294 at-bats lifetime against the Pale Hose, compared to .264 with 75 homers against everyone else. He averages a homer every 23 at-bats versus Chicago and every 40 at-bats against the rest of the league.

The White Sox will take their three-game cushion to Kansas City as they begin a six-game road trip Tuesday. They’ll face the Angels this weekend. The Tigers just wrapped up a 10-game road trip, so they do have the easier slate from here. After facing Oakland at home the next three days, they’ll close with 13 against the Twins and Royals.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.