They hit into a triple play, stumbled through just about the worst defensive inning known to Christendom and saw their starter chased after five.
And still the Braves outlasted the White Sox, 11-8, at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday night, going for six doubles and three home runs by Freddie Freeman, Tyler Flowers and Nick Markakis, who hasn’t found a park in this city this trip that can contain him. After yielding double-digit run totals a dismal five times this season, the Braves turned the trick for the first time on their biggest offensive night of the year.
“Just one of them games,” interim manager Brian Snitker said.
Starter Matt Wisler gave up six runs but still left with an 8-5 lead. Rookie reliever Mauricio Cabrera gave up a run in a three-hit ninth but, having lost eight of 10 when they hit town on Thursday, the Braves won consecutive games for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks. And they clobbered Sox ace Chris Sale in the process.
“You have a game that Sale’s starting, you don’t expect as many runs as we scored,” said Wisler who gave up six runs to Sale’s eight. “We just made him pay for his mistakes and the offense picked us up big. Getting that run support with a guy like Sale, it gave us confidence to keep pitching and get outs.”
The White Sox reached Wisler for a pair of homers in a fifth inning to close to within 8-6, only to watch the Braves plate three more runs in the bottom of the top of the sixth with a couple doubles, a Jeff Francoeur sacrifice fly and a RBI infield single for Adonis Garcia, who produced his career-first four hit game.
Wisler retired seven straight at one point and struck out six but left with the unsightly stat line of five innings, eight hits allowed and six earned runs.
Caught in a 4-4 tie, the Braves blew open the fifth like this was a beer league, sending eight men to the plate and ball after ball into the gaps. Francoeur, Garcia and Tyler Flowers delivered consecutive two-out doubles to plate four runs for a 8-4 lead. Sale, who had yielded more than five earned runs only once in 17 starts, was pulled after the inning, having yielded eight runs and a career-high seven extra base hits.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Freeman said. “So we’re going up there being aggressive, swinging at strikes and good things happened. Some teams might take us a little a little lightly because we haven’t gotten off to a good start but we’ve been trying to have good ABs and we’ve been getting some good pitches.”
Markakis tied it 4-4 in the fourth with his third home run in two games, a pull-shot into the seats beyond the home bullpen in right. Due in most part to his recovery last season from neck surgery, Markakis generated only five home runs in his first 930 at-bats since joining the Braves. In two nights in different parks in Chicago, he hit three more in the span of seven at-bats.
Somewhere in there, Freeman grounded into a triple play. After Chase d’Arnaud walked and Gordon Beckham singled to open the third, Freeman bounced to shortstop Tim Anderson who tagged d’Arnaud, stepped on second to retire Beckham and easily threw out Freeman. This has become old hat for the Sox. who became the first team since Boston and Oakland in 1979 to turn three triple plays in the same season.
The Braves absolutely butchered the second inning and turned a 3-2 lead, staked courtesy of Flower’s two-run homer, into a 4-3 deficit. With one out, Carlos Sanchez doubled into the gap in left center, where center fielder Ender Inciarte sent a weak throw into second behind the runner, giving Sanchez third base.
J.B. Shuck followed with a pop-up into shallow right which Beckham tracked but yielded to Freeman, who was nowhere near in position to make the catch. Sanchez scored and Shuck kept running to second, which was left uncovered. After Anderson singled Shuck to third, Adam Eaton delivered a squeeze bunt while falling down and when Wisler flipped the ball with his glove wide of the plate as Shuck scored, Eaton was able to get up and make first base.
It got worse. The Sox pulled off a double steal on the second pitch to Jose Abreu, allowing the first baseman to drive in a fourth run with a sacrifice fly. Inciarte made the catch in center and began to jog in believing it to be the third out and Eaton ran to third base without a throw. Inciarte’s reprieve was delivered via a Cabrera inning-ending pop-out.
“Started off good, got real ugly there the one inning and came back and the offense broke out tonight,” Snitker said. “That’s as good as we’ve swung the bats since I’ve been there, off a really, really tough pitcher. You don’t expect to see that.”
Freeman’s first-inning homer was an anomaly against the left-handed Sale, who had limited left-handed batters to a .199 average since becoming a starter in 2012. Freeman, whose opposite-field shot traveled 365 feet, joined Brennan Boesch, Eric Hosmer, Travis Hafner and Markakis later on as the only lefties to homer off Sale.