CHICAGO | In 2013, the White Sox would have added gloomy result to gloomy environs after Matt Lindstrom blew a save in the ninth inning Sunday.
“Last year, they’d probably won it just like that, that team,” manager Robin Ventura said of the Cleveland Indians, who were 17-2 against the Sox in ’13.
But even with one of the majors’ shakiest bullpens and defense that can still betray them, the Sox legitimately have a new, upbeat feeling this season. That was best expressed by Alexei Ramirez, normally ice-cold in April, with a one-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Indians 4-3 to take their weekend series three out of four.
Amid soggy, chilly conditions that produced two hours of rain delays, Ramirez has heated up like never before in the start of the season.
His shot to left with Jordan Danks aboard extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He’s two short of Frank Thomas’ team-record 15-game hitting streak to start the season.
“You could tell, there’s a good environment there, everybody’s pulling for each other, hitters are doing the job,” Ramirez said of the revived attitude in the dugout. “We felt like we could come back at any time.”
The Sox’s mettle was severely tested. Marcus Semien put his team ahead 2-1 with his second homer in the bottom of the eighth. But Jose Abreu bobbled a Michael Brantley grounder leading off the ninth. Lindstrom then allowed two singles, a walk and a wild pitch to put Cleveland ahead 3-2 in another bullpen meltdown.
“At times last year, when we would get down by runs, it was just kind of like we were beaten,” said Danks, a right-field defensive replacement for Dayan Viciedo who walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth. “This year’s a different team. We battled back ... It was really fun.”
The revival is no small thanks to Ramirez, a former clutch hitter who had a career-low last year in RBIs with 48. He credits the likes of a familiar Sox name for helping him get off to a .420 start with 12 RBIs, second to Abreu.
“The support of family, people in Cuba and definitely (assistant hitting coach) Harold Baines has always been there, talking to me and giving me a lot of support,” he said through an interpreter.
Ramirez was happily jostled by a mob of teammates at home plate as the Sox celebrated his walk-off and a welcomed off-day before facing old friend Jake Peavy when Boston arrives Tuesday.
“At the time, I didn’t feel any cold at all,” Ramirez said. “That was a great moment."
Meanwhile, Jose Quintana experienced a 2013 throwback with a six-inning, one-run no-decision. The lefty set a Sox and AL record with 17 no-decisions last year.
Ventura would have liked a longer outing from Quintana to stave off using his beleaguered bullpen. After working around a 45-minute rain delay in the fourth, Quintana ran his pitch count to 121 (72 strikes).