Erik Johnson dragged himself through five innings of control problems I cannot imagine, or maybe I just don't want to, and came out a winner on the other side.
Fresh off his best and most encouraging start of the season, Johnson showed up Sunday and couldn't throw a strike. He walked five, he walked the leadoff man in his first four innings, and only a sharp fifth gave him more strikes than balls on the day. An as such, he cruised to his first win of the season as the Sox office exploded in a 16-2 rout over the Texas Rangers, ending their losing skid at four.
Texas giving starts to former lefty specialist reliever Robbie Ross seemed like a bad idea on its face, and it started falling apart for them around the third inning, when Ross' Easter Sunday was interrupted by Jordan Danks--a lefty who should not be able to transcend such matchups--cranking a fastball off the face of the second deck to stake Johnson to a 2-0 advantage.
Johnson getting a caught stealing, snagging a line-drive out of the air from Alex Rios, and tagging out Leonys Martin at home on a wild pitch, were just a handful of the random outs he was gifted to keep him afloat. But the benefit of being out of the strike zone at all is that no one squared him up. Martin's third inning infield single was the only hit against Johnson in an otherwise hellish first four innings.
Things hit bottom in the fourth for Johnson after Elvis Andrus walked, stole second, advanced to third on the throw and scored on a extremely wild pitch to tie the game at 2. After that, things started to turn just a bit. Johnson retired his last five batters in order and exited with five thrown and just one earned run, and the Sox outscored the Rangers 13-0.
A warning track sacrifice fly from Conor Gillaspie and booming opposite-field two-run blast from Jose Abreu on a flagging Ross fastball broke the game open for the Sox in the fifth, and in the sixth, Marcus Semien went and buried it. Shawn Tolleson came in to play matchups for the Rangers after a leadoff Dayan Viciedo double and dropped third strike on Alexei Ramirez ended Ross' day. So intent on playing matchups was Rangers manager Ron Washington, that he intentionally walked Jordan Danks with two outs to face Semien. After Tolleson fooled Semien with a couple hard curves, the young Cal grad stooped down and pounded the sixth pitch of the at-bat off the 390 ft. sign in left-center for a bases-clearing triple.
Four innings would seemingly be enough time for the Sox bullpen to make a 9-2 game interesting, but the bats kept adding distance. Dayan Viciedo hit his first home run of the season in the seventh, and Hector Noesi--a shortlist contender for worst MLB pitcher right now--coughed up six more in the top of the ninth. Semien, Abreu (eight total bases), Viciedo and Tyler Flowers combined for 13 hits. Until Monday night, they can all be considered fixed.
While newly arrived Andre Rienzo was not particularly impressive diving out of an eighth inning jam, Matt Lindstrom offered a perfect inning and Ronald Belisario offered two to keep the later frames stress-free.
Team Record: 9-10
Next game is tomorrow at 6:08pm at Detroit on WCIU
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