CHICAGO — Alex Rios might have blasted his way out of Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura’s doghouse on Saturday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field.
A day after getting pulled from a game for not hustling on a key double play grounder, Rios tried to make up for it with his third career grand slam and five RBIs in Chicago’s 10-6 come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Braves.
“It’s a situation none of us want to be a part of,” Rios said before the game, referring to the incident from a 6-4 loss on Friday night. “It’s unacceptable behavior and there is a little bit of frustration in that behavior. I’m not using that as an excuse to what happened and it could’ve been managed in a better way, but it’s something that shouldn’t happen.”
Rios came into the game struggling at the plate, going 2-for-20 in his previous six games and hitting just .235 with no home runs and nine RBIs in his last 31 games. He broke out of it in a 3-for-5 day highlighted by his slam in the five-run third inning for the White Sox (38-57).
“I don’t focus on hitting home runs,” he said afterward. “I try to focus on my approach and hitting the ball hard. When you do that, you don’t have to focus on anything else. When you do that, home runs will come. You don’t have to go get them. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Chicago, which had dropped eight of its previous 11 games, scored four more times in the fourth to give starter Jake Peavy some breathing room and the win.
It was his first start since heading to the disabled list on June 6 with a broken rib and Peavy (7-4) went six innings — allowing four runs (two earned). He struck out three and threw 66 of his 96 pitches for strikes.
“I think he got better as the game went along,” Ventura said. “Early on, I don’t think he was as sharp. It got better as it went along, even with the heat and everything, just getting him out of there when I did. He was getting stronger and that was good to see. He was still competing, doing all that stuff, but for me he just got better.
Aside from Rios and Peavy, the Sox also got big days out of Jeff Keppinger (two RBIs), Josh Phegley (3-for-4, 2 doubles) and Alejandro De Aza (4-for-5), who tied his career high with four hits.
Paul Maholm started for the Braves and took the loss. He also left with no outs in the fourth because of a sprained left wrist that he initally tweaked while hitting in his last start against the Miami Marlins. The wrist started to flare up starting the fourth for Maholm, who has dropped three straight starts.
“Nothing (stings) worse than your guys giving you a 4-0 lead and you giving it back,” he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve gone through a bad stretch in my career and it’s not probably going to be the last one.
“It’s no fun and it’s not as if I don’t think I can correct it pretty easily. I’m going to do my best to make sure I’m able to throw my bullpen in-between and correct it and make the adjustment to get back to where I was for the first two months of the season.”
The Braves gave him that 4-0 lead thanks to a two-run homer by Dan Uggla in the second and two manufactured runs in the third, but it lasted about 10 minutes — or roughly as long as it took for the Sox to score their first run and load the bases for Rios in the bottom of the third.
After stranding a runner on third with the score tied the night before because he didn’t hustle, Rios appeared to take out his frustrations on the ball — sending Maholm’s first pitch into the seats 405 feet to center field.
Before the game, Rios took responsibility for his actions on Friday but also took a shot at Ventura, saying he did not agree with the manner in which Ventura made his point.
Ventura did not care.
“That’s the (rule) that’s first,” he said before the game. “That’s the one you can dictate yourself. Some of the other (mistakes) are either decision-making or not thinking properly or more physical, so that one, to me, is simple. It’s the first one that we have, as far as a rule.”
Chicago, which finished with 13 hits, added another run in the seventh off reliever Anthony Varvaro and got three solid innings of relief from its bullpen. The Braves got a two-run homer from Freddie Freeman in the eighth to narrow the gap in his first start since jamming his thumb a week ago.
NOTES: Ventura hopes that injured 1B Paul Konerko (lower back strain) will be able to return on Monday from his rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte. … The Braves again started without LF Jason Heyward (hamstring strain), but he said it is likely he will return to full-time action in Sunday’s series finale.