OAKLAND (AP) — Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox might have lost this kind of game last season. There were many close ones they couldn’t quite pull out.
“It’s refreshing, isn’t it?” quipped Adam Eaton, a fresh mark on his right elbow from being hit by the first pitch on opening night. “I’m just ecstatic for us to get a win. The year we had last year starting off, it’s good to get a ‘W’ right off the bat.”
Sale struck out eight in a solid season debut to build off his franchise record last year, and the White Sox beat the Oakland Athletics 4-3 on Monday.
Eaton hit an RBI triple and Jimmy Rollins drove in a run during a four-run third inning in his first game with the White Sox playing back home in the East Bay.
What had been planned as a marquee matchup between two American League aces never happened. Oakland right-hander Sonny Gray was scratched because of food poisoning that sent him to the emergency room.
Sale didn’t get his opening day start last season, when Jeff Samardzija took the ball after Sale was slowed by a broken right foot. The left-hander went on to finish 13-11 with a team-record 274 strikeouts.
He didn’t allow a runner Monday until Stephen Vogt beat out an infield single with one out in the third.
Sale (1-0) went seven innings. He gave up three runs and seven hits with one walk.
White Sox closer David Robertson allowed Coco Crisp’s leadoff walk in the ninth and then finished with three straight outs for the save, preserving Sale’s first victory at the Oakland Coliseum in five outings and three starts.
“It’s huge, really,” Sale said of winning the opener. “We’ve got music playing, we’ve got smiles, we’re having fun.”
Jed Lowrie hit a two-run single and Billy Butler had a pair of doubles for the A’s. Lowrie drew a leadoff walk in the eighth and advanced when Zach Duke came in and induced Josh Reddick’s groundout before Nate Jones got the final two outs of the inning.
“We got it done. It wasn’t pretty,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said.
A’s lefty Rich Hill (0-1) made a forgettable Oakland debut in his first career opening day start. It lasted just 2 2/3 innings after he replaced Gray.
Hill plunked Eaton with his first pitch and hit Jose Abreu two batters later, but escaped unscathed with a pickoff of Eaton at second.
The 36-year-old Hill, going on regular rest and the 10th A’s pitcher to start the opener in the past 11 years, threw 36 strikes among his 66 pitches.
He had started just four games in the majors since 2009. Hill went 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA in four starts last September for Boston. He signed a $6 million, one-year deal with Oakland in the offseason.
The third inning lasted 41 minutes with 80 pitches, eight hits, seven runs and three errors.
“That’s what happens when you give extra outs,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Can’t do that. We learned that last year, we’ve learned it this spring. In close games it typically ends up being a play like that, a play or two defensively that you should make.”
MOMENT OF SILENCE
A moment of silence was held in the memory of two late A’s players who died in recent months, Dave Henderson and Tony Phillips. Both were members of Oakland’s last World Series championship team in 1989.
Henderson died in late December at age 57, and Phillips passed away in February at 56.
Their family members threw out the ceremonial first pitches, with Hall of Famer and ex-teammate Rickey Henderson handling catching duties.
White Sox: Ventura plans to mix up his designated hitter to keep players fresh, with Avisail Garcia getting the nod in the opener. Garcia will play some right field to spell Eaton, too. “It’s going to be better for them physically if we can rotate that around,” Ventura said.
Athletics: LHP Felix Doubront was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left elbow after he lasted just one inning Saturday against San Francisco. He will travel to Cincinnati to receive a second opinion next Monday from Dr. Timothy Kremchek to determine whether he might need Tommy John surgery. The A’s recalled OF Andrew Lambo from Triple-A Nashville to fill the roster spot. ... INF Eric Sogard, on the disabled list with a neck strain, is scheduled to hit Wednesday against Henderson Alvarez, who will face live batters as he works his way back from right shoulder surgery.
White Sox: LHP Jose Quintana has never had a decision against the A’s, including his only outing in Oakland on June 1, 2013.
Athletics: RHP Chris Bassitt will pitch Tuesday night and Gray will start Wednesday.