SAN DIEGO -- If the White Sox consistently had played as complete a game as they did during a 3-1 win Friday night over the Padres at Petco Park, then they might have been fighting for a playoff spot instead of temporarily spoiling San Diego’s National Wild Card hopes.
And the victory, marking a second straight for the South Siders, started with the right arm of Davis Martin. The 25-year-old, a 14th-round Draft pick out of Texas Tech University in the 2018, has been one of the true success stories for a White Sox squad that hasn’t reached the level of excellence it wanted during the 2022 season.
Martin once again took the rotation spot of Michael Kopech, who has been shut down for the season, and turned in his best start of eight made. The rookie fanned a career-high eight while throwing a career-high 103 pitches. He recorded 10 of his 12 swings and misses on the slider, according to Statcast.
“We were throwing offspeed in every count imaginable,” Martin said. “I had confidence in a lot of different pitches. All four of them. I definitely think it was one of the better outings this year.
“The slider is probably my most confident pitch. I think that was part of the game plan: We were going to have to throw offspeed to keep them off-balance. They control the strike zone really well, so we were going to have to throw multiple pitches for strikes. We leaned on the slider pretty heavily today.”
Two of those eight strikeouts came against Manny Machado and one against Juan Soto, punctuating the validation of Martin’s stuff.
“We’ve had a lot of guys who had a big name in there, and you are trying to do too much,” said Martin, who lowered his ERA to 3.65 over 61 2/3 innings. “You overthrow, and today it was just relax, execute your pitch and saw the fruit of that. It was really cool that if we execute our pitch and game plan right, we can get some of these guys out.”
Added White Sox acting manager Miguel Cairo: “Something that he's been doing is competing. That's always something we talk about. Going up there against that team, facing Machado, Soto, [Josh] Bell, all those good hitters. They've got good hitters, and he did an excellent job."
Eloy Jiménez homered off Yu Darvish (16-8), Yoán Moncada had three hits and drove home the go-ahead run and right fielder Gavin Sheets added two hits and a perfect throw from right field to second baseman Josh Harrison on Soto’s double in the fifth, allowing Harrison to make an equally perfect relay to nail Jurickson Profar at the plate for the third out and preserve a 2-1 lead.
At 78-79 overall, the White Sox hang on to second by one game over the Twins in the American League Central and need to go 4-1 in their final five against San Diego and Minnesota to finish over .500.
“What I like is that we’re playing the way we’re supposed to play,” Cairo said. “We are playing the way we’re supposed to finish the season.”
There was one tough moment for Martin and everyone in attendance in the fourth inning. He hit Brandon Drury on the helmet with a 95.5 mph fastball. The ball hit Drury in the bill of his helmet, and he was able to stay in the game. But it understandably shook up Martin momentarily, before shortstop Elvis Andrus intervened at the mound.
“It was a pat on the butt and, ‘He’s OK, he’s fine, he’s moving. What are you going to do next? Let’s get this next pitch,’” said Martin of Andrus’ message. “So, I think he kind of transitioned my mind from what just happened to ok let’s move on to the next guy. That was very big.
“That’s 96 up and in. We are trying to get a pitch up there setting something up, and that’s the last thing we want. I made sure he’s OK. That’s the last thing I want to do. It’s the first time I ever hit somebody in the head like that. It’s a little scary, but I’m just glad he’s OK.”