Swisher's double helps Sox sweep
Bases-clearing hit breaks tie in eighth inning to top Giants
SAN FRANCISCO -- Over the first 4 1/3 innings of Sunday's series finale at AT&T Park, the White Sox could not muster a single hit off San Francisco starter Matt Cain.
During the next 2 2/3 innings, Cain had a tough time keeping his offerings out of the left-field stands. A season-high four home runs for the South Siders put an emphatic exclamation mark on their 10-game road trip.
But it was four less than powerful strokes in the eighth off of Tyler Walker and a stellar relief effort from Nick Masset that ultimately told the story of Chicago's 13-8 victory over the Giants. The up-and-down affair gave the White Sox (23-20) their second three-game sweep of the season and 12th all-time in Interleague Play.
Masset hadn't pitched since last Sunday but was able to pick up his first career save in just his ninth game worked this season. Holding a 9-6 lead in the eighth, Octavio Dotel entered and promptly walked the first three hitters by throwing 12 of his 16 pitches outside the strike zone. Most of these offerings were too far from the plate for Omar Vizquel, John Bowker or Randy Winn to give a second thought.
Manager Ozzie Guillen immediately summoned Masset, speaking pregame as to how he wanted to give setup man Scott Linebrink the day off. Masset needed four pitches to get his team out of the jam, while still holding a one-run lead.
Steve Holm's double-play grounder, started by third baseman Joe Crede, ended the last viable threat for the Giants (17-28).
"When he came into the game with no outs and the bases loaded, I told [Mark] Buehrle that Masset is a ground-ball machine," said White Sox starter John Danks. Danks allowed three runs on six hits over six innings but did not factor in the final outcome. "So, there wasn't any surprise. He has been throwing the ball well."
"Nick has been doing a tremendous job every time we put him out there," Guillen added. "He saved our trip today."
In order to stay sharp between sporadic trips to the mound, Masset throws a bullpen session every other day and tries to view those sessions as simulated games. On Sunday, he tried to live up to Danks' description by inducing ground balls in as few pitches as possible.
"I was just trying to throw hard sinkers down and in or down and away," said Masset, who struck out one over two perfect innings. "I've always been a ground-ball pitcher, so when I get ahead of guys I try to punch them out."
This lead was in place for Dotel and Masset to protect because of consecutive eighth-inning singles from Paul Konerko, Crede and Alexei Ramirez, who had his first career multi-hit game, loading the bases against Walker with one out. After Walker struck out Brian Anderson, pinch-hitter Nick Swisher came through with a spinning double down the left-field line to clear the bases and leave Walker (1-2) shaking his head behind home plate.
"Coming up in that situation like I did, I was like, 'Oh, man. Find some green somewhere,'" Swisher said. "With a guy like Walker, as hard as he throws and with the way his ball moves all over the place, I got a first -itch strike called on me and after that I was thinking to myself, 'Don't try to hit it hard. Just try to float it somewhere.' I got lucky and found some grass out there."
Scoring 13 runs, supplemented by four more crossing the plate for the White Sox in the ninth off Giants closer Brian Wilson, looked like a near impossibility with the way Cain was throwing through the first four innings. Trailing 1-0 in the fifth, Crede tied the game with his eighth home run and first since April 29.
Orlando Cabrera tied the game again at 2 leading off the sixth with his first home run since April 12, and Carlos Quentin followed two batters later with a two-run blast to left. It was Quentin's American League-leading 11th home run. Cabrera completed the long-ball barrage with a two-run shot off of Cain in the seventh, marking the third two-home run game of his career.
At that point, the White Sox held a 6-3, lead but the roller-coaster ride was just beginning. Before all was said and done, the White Sox set a season-high with 15 hits and tied a season-high with their runs scored.
"Today was huge because it was a total team effort," Swisher said. "We got the home runs and big hits when we needed them."
"We just kept putting good at-bats together and hit the ball with people on base," Cabrera added.
Sunday's victory completed this White Sox excursion to Seattle, Anaheim and the Bay Area with a 7-3 record, moving them 1 1/2 games ahead of the Indians in the American League Central. The White Sox started this trip one game behind Cleveland.
Thanks to timely hitting and a slightly unexpected bullpen savior, the White Sox head home for six games with a huge burst of momentum picked up in the Pacific Time Zone.
"Especially with a day off [Monday], it's good to come back and win a game like that one," Cabrera said.
"That wasn't crazy, man. It was wonderful. It was great," Swisher added. "Before we came on this trip, all I heard about was how the White Sox never really play well on the West Coast. I think we kind of turned that around a little bit."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.