Alejandro De Aza homers twice as White Sox top Twins
CHICAGO — As openers go, this one was promising for the Chicago White Sox.
Now, all they have to do is build on it.
Alejandro De Aza hit two homers and Jose Abreu had two hits in his major league debut to back Chris Sale and lead the White Sox to a 5-3 season-opening victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday.
“It’s a big deal because of what last year was,” manager Robin Ventura said.
Last year was a 99-loss nightmare, a collapse after they finished second in the AL Central in 2012.
This year, they insist, will be better. They are off to a good start, even if they beat a team that is trying to stop a losing cycle.
Sale got the win, pitching five-hit ball into the eighth.
Paul Konerko got a loud ovation before what was likely his final opener, although he didn’t play. The White Sox got clutch hits, hustled on the bases, and played error-free ball to start the season on a winning note.
Abreu doubled on the first pitch he saw leading off the second inning against Ricky Nolasco and scored on De Aza’s two-run homer to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.
He also drove in the go-ahead run with a single during a two-run third after Minnesota’s Kurt Suzuki tied it with a two-run single in the top half.
It was a good start for Abreu, who insisted he didn’t feel any real first-game jitters. That line drive double to right, on a ball that Oswaldo Arcia appeared to misjudge, didn’t hurt.
“You wanted to get that first one out of the way,” Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million deal in the off season, said through an interpreter. “Once you get it, it’s a very happy moment. The first thing I thought of was my mother.”
Abreu’s family is expected to join him at some point this season. He wouldn’t say where his mom is, other than “somewhere close, but we can’t really comment on that.”
De Aza made it 5-2 with a solo shot just over the right-field wall in the sixth inning for his first career multi-homer game. It was also the first for Chicago on opening day since Jim Thome at Cleveland in 2008, and the first by a White Sox player in a season opener at home since 1960, when Minnie Minoso hit two against the Kansas City Athletics.
That was enough for Sale, who allowed three runs and struck out eight and walked one. The two-time All-Star came out with a 5-2 lead with one out and a runner on second in the eighth.
Ronald Belisario allowed a two-out RBI single to Suzuki before Donnie Veal retired Joe Mauer on a grounder.
Matt Lindstrom came on in the ninth after being announced as the closer by Ventura before the game. The right-hander gave up a one-out double to Chris Colabello before striking out Trevor Plouffe and retiring Arcia on a grounder to the mound for his first save since April 2011 when he was with Colorado.
Nolasco took the loss in a shaky debut with Minnesota. One of the top free agent pitchers last winter, he gave up five runs and 10 hits in six innings.
“I thought we played good, we battled all game,” Nolasco said. “Put up some runs, gave a good fight to Chris Sale and made it interesting late. Come back tomorrow or the next day and try and build off that.”
The Twins are trying to pick themselves up after back-to-back 96-loss seasons and dropping a staggering 291 games the past three years.
There was a glitch before the game with the Twins’ replay system as two blown fuses disabled a pair of monitors in the Minnesota clubhouse. That was fixed in time for the first pitch, but things didn’t get much better for the Twins.
That is because the White Sox got the big hits from Abreu and De Aza to back Sale.
*Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast