Semien gives White Sox upper hand against rivals
Two-out double plates game-winner; Quintana allows one run over 7
CHICAGO -- A quick look at Marcus Semien's stat line would probably not impress. He's hitting .219 with three homers and 15 RBIs.
But, from the seventh inning on, few have been as clutch as Semien this season.
Semien delivered the go-ahead RBI double off Justin Grimm in the 12th inning to propel the White Sox to a 3-1 win over the Cubs on Monday night at blustery Wrigley Field. It was Semien's fourth go-ahead hit in the seventh inning or later, and he picked one heck of a time for his first hit in six extra-inning at-bats.
"I just try and do the same thing every time. Sometimes it works like that," said Semien of his knack for getting big hits late in games. "It's still early in the season, so I like to put together good at-bats at all points in the game, but right now it just happened that way."
As he mentioned, Semien would prefer to hit well the entire game. But the later it gets in the game, the better he's been. Semien is hitting .135 in innings 1-3, .265 in innings 4-6, and .300 in innings 7-9. Semien's first three go-ahead hits were all homers, and they all were his first and only hit of the night.
Monday, he was 1-for-4 entering his game-winning at-bat. Semien's ability to come through late regardless of what he had done earlier in the game is a quality not lost on his manager.
"He's a tough hitter. He stays in there, hangs in there, no matter what has happened earlier," Robin Ventura said. "He could have some at-bats that look a little ugly, but get some guys on base late and he's been able to come through. You just put it behind you.
"He seems to be able to lock in. Doesn't let that affect him late in the game, especially when you need him to come through. It's a nice trait to have."
In the 12th, Alexei Ramirez picked up his 1,000th career hit with a two-out single off Grimm and stole second. Tyler Flowers walked before Semien delivered a shot just fair down the left-field line that scored Ramirez.
"I got behind people, not staying within myself, walking people -- it's going to catch up," Grimm said. "It catches up with you, one time or another. Pitch sequence may have been a little off to some guys, but other than that, you've got to get ahead and stay aggressive.When I'm not aggressive, I'm not at my best."
A classic pitchers' duel between Jose Quintana -- the king of no-decisions -- and Jeff Samardzija, who is winless in seven starts this season despite a 1.62 ERA, was fittingly decided by the bullpens.
Quintana was perfect through 4 2/3 innings before walking Nate Schierholtz and Mike Olt. He recovered to induce a groundout from Darwin Barney. Samardzija broke up the no-hitter with a double to left leading off the bottom of the sixth, was sacrificed to third and scored on Junior Lake's sac fly to left that tied the game at 1.
That meant Quintana picked up his 31st no-decision since the start of 2012, extending his Major League lead in that torturous category.
Samardzija was as dominant the rest of the way as Quintana was in the game's first half. He retired nine in a row from the sixth to the eighth, striking out five in that span. He entered the ninth at 107 pitches and walked Abreu and Dunn with one out, but got Viciedo to ground into an inning-ending double play on his 126th pitch, a career high.
"They were pitching great," Ventura said. "I think Jeff and Q were both pitching great. Conditions were not very nice. I can sympathize with guys going to the plate and trying to hit it. With the wind blowing in, it was just tough to be able to score. We had some opportunities. Jeff just shut us down. We had second and third and he got out of it. He did it again when we had guys in scoring position. They pitched great. It's just that it was not a good day to hit."
And while the Cubs bullpen folded late, the White Sox bullpen -- once considered a glaring weakness -- continued it's dominant stretch over the past two weeks. Ronald Belisario extended his scoreless innings to 11 with a pair of shutdown frames, while Jake Petricka, Scott Downs, Daniel Webb and Matt Lindstrom combined to shut out the Cubs over the final three innings.
The Sox bullpen has a 1.65 ERA in its last 15 games covering 54 2/3 innings, compared to a 6.12 ERA in 57 1/3 innings over its first 18 games -- a span in which the 'pen also blew five of its six save opportunities.
"Everybody's just kind of knowing their role and handing the ball off to the next guy," said Lindstrom, who picked up his fourth consecutive save. "That's kind of our mentality right now. They did a phenomenal job. Our hitters hung in there and put a couple of runs up late in the game. We came out on top."
The Sox bullpen woes had been as frequent a topic this season as the team's hot offense. Entering Monday's game, the Sox were second in the Majors with 163 runs and fourth in runs per game with a 5.09 rate, but the bats have cooled as the reality of missing key pieces to the lineup becomes painfully obvious.
They've had plenty of time to adjust to life without Avisail Garcia, but much less to do so for hitting without Conor Gillaspie and Adam Eaton in the lineup at the same time.
"That is tough. We're missing two of our starting outfielders, our third baseman, we're missing some key pieces to our team," Lindstrom said. "I think if we can hold it together when those guys get back, we'll be that much better. Even Nate [Jones] when he gets back, that's like a late addition at the All-Star break.
"Once we get at full strength, we can really see what we can do, and I think the fans can see what we can do when we have all been up at the same time."