Sandoval returns with 3 opposite-field hits

Sandoval returns with 3 opposite-field hits

CHICAGO -- Five weeks of only being able to watch his team perform left Pablo Sandoval hungry for some hits.

And when he at last returned to the lineup on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, Sandoval came through with a hit parade, going 3-for-4 to help the Red Sox to a 4-1 victory over the White Sox.

All three hits were singles to the opposite field. The middle knock was the softest and the biggest.

Sandoval lofted a first-pitch slider from Anthony Swarzak into left for a bloop RBI single to snap a 1-1 tie. The exit velocity was 67.7 mph.

To Sandoval, who missed most of 2016 and got off to a slow start this season before spraining his right knee, it felt like a rocket.

"Obviously the guy was throwing a lot of sliders," said Sandoval. "I was just looking for one. He threw me one, but it was in. I was able to put the barrel on the ball, got a bloop. I'll take it. I'll take everything right now, especially when you're winning. That's the most important thing."

The Red Sox have won 8 out of 10 heading into a key stretch of seven road games against the Orioles and Yankees. Now that Sandoval is back, he will try to earn as much playing time as he can.

Sandoval was the designated hitter in Wednesday's game, with Hanley Ramirez getting a rest and sound defender Deven Marrero holding down third base.

Look for Sandoval to be out of the lineup against lefty Wade Miley on Thursday, but the O's throw three straight righties to finish out that series. He could make his return to the hot corner by Friday.

"I just want to do my job," Sandoval said. "I don't want to think about personal stuff. I just want to help my team to win games. That's the most important thing for me. The way these guys have been playing, I have to step up, do the same things they've been doing."

While the Red Sox definitely need stable defense from Sandoval, the biggest way he can help is with steady at-bats from the left side, which will give the lower part of the batting order a threat.

Wednesday was a strong start for Sandoval to gain some momentum.

"Yeah, his first night back he chips in," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He gets three base hits the other way, one is a base hit inside the four-run inning. But to see him come back and swing the bat with some aggressiveness, I thought he stayed inside the strike zone or at least up and down on top of the plate pretty well tonight for the first time back, so he gives us a boost with the three base hits here tonight."

In his first at-bat, Sandoval practically went down to his shoetops to rip a single into left.

"I don't know how he got the bat to it," said Farrell. "It looked like it was about a ball width above the ground. He does, and you know, hopefully he can play with a little bit more relaxation. He's going to get in the field defensively, we know that, but I think to get back, get in the mix, get a few base hits, that's good for his own peace of mind and his own confidence as he rejoins us."

For the most part, the Red Sox have had paltry production from the third-base position this season. But Sandoval could change that.

"I just want to do all the things that I usually do when I'm hitting," said Sandoval. "I use the whole field. That's the most important thing when I'm hitting. I'm the type of guy that hits pitches everywhere, high to low. I want to keep doing that approach, hitting to all fields where the pitch is."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.