CHICAGO -- From the infield to the outfield, the Chicago White Sox are playing much better defense than they did during their listless start. And it's no coincidence that the victories are coming in bunches now.
"I've just always believed you've got to be able to play defense so you don't have those things happen," manager Robin Ventura said. "You know the game changes and guys are still on base, you're still down an out, so we just like our guys to stay with it."
The White Sox have won five of six and nine of 12 to climb back to .500 for the first time since they were 4-4 through April 10. Dylan Axelrod (3-3) benefited from a two-run homer by Adam Dunn and a tiebreaking two-run double from Alejandro De Aza while earning his third consecutive victory.
It was the first three-game series sweep for Chicago since it won three in a row at Minnesota in September.
"Every win is very important. Every win means a lot," Rios said. "Sweeping teams like this, you have to do it. You have to sweep teams like this and keep it going for the next games."
Sanabia returned to the mound for the first time since cameras caught him spitting on the ball during a start against Philadelphia last Monday. He said he didn't know it was illegal, and it looks as if Major League Baseball has no plans to discipline the 24-year-old right-hander.
Sanabia (3-7) pitched into the seventh inning against the Phillies to end a personal five-game losing streak. But he was unable to sustain that success against Chicago (24-24). Then he said after the game that he was headed to the disabled list with a right groin problem.
"As of right now there is no point to continue to pitch or what not," he said. "It is only getting weaker. I don't want to make it worst and be something serious instead of something minor."
Sanabia also said the spitting incident had no effect on his performance.
"I didn't think about it," he said. "To me it wasn't anything serious."
Dunn drove the first pitch he saw in the first inning over the wall in left for an opposite-field shot that snapped an 0-for-17 rut. The big slugger, who is playing through a back issue, has six homers in his last 12 games and 12 overall this season.
De Aza came up with a two-out drive into the gap in left-center in the second, lifting the White Sox to a 4-2 lead.
At 13-37, the Marlins are off to the worst 50-game start in franchise history and the poorest in the majors since the 2006 Kansas City Royals had the same record, according to STATS. No NL team has started this slowly since the 1987 San Diego Padres were 11-39.
Sanabia allowed four runs and six hits in four innings.
Ozuna, Chris Coghlan and Ruggiano started the second with consecutive singles to bring home one run, but Coghlan was easily cut down by Viciedo while trying to score on Ruggiano's base hit into left field. The throw beat Coghlan to the plate, and Hector Gimenez held on when the center fielder made an attempt to dislodge the ball.
Rios bobbled Ruggiano's single to right in the sixth, then recovered in time to throw out Ozuna in a close play at home. Marlins manager Mike Redmond came out for a brief argument before returning to the dugout.
"The second one, we have to do a better job of running the bases," Redmond said. "If we were a little more aggressive rounding third that shouldn't even been a play so then you leave it up to the mercy of the umpire on bang-bang play."
Rios tacked on an RBI single in the eighth to extend Chicago's lead to 5-3, giving the White Sox some momentum going into four straight games against the crosstown Cubs beginning Monday night.
"I definitely don't think we've played our best baseball," Dunn said, "and if people think that we have I think they're crazy because we started out playing terrible defense. Offensively, we just haven't really got it going, but yet, we're right in the middle of it."
Axelrod was charged with three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain then combined to get the ball to Addison Reed, who worked the ninth for his 17th save in 18 chances.
Crain pitched a perfect eighth to run his scoreless streak to 20 consecutive outings covering 18 1/3 innings. Reed has converted his last seven save opportunities.Notes
- Marlins reliever Wade LeBlanc pitched three perfect innings.
- The White Sox traded minor league INF Drew Garcia to the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named. The 27-year-old Garcia hit .222 with 12 RBI in 24 games for Triple-A Charlotte this season.
- Ventura said C Tyler Flowers (back spasms) was available, but he wanted to hold him out as a precaution. Flowers has missed three consecutive games.
- White Sox LHP Chris Sale, who was scratched from his start on Wednesday due to mild shoulder tendinitis, remains in line to start Tuesday against the Cubs.
- Miami faces Tampa Bay on Monday afternoon, with Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (2-2, 3.31 ERA) opposing RHP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 5.40 ERA).
- White Sox LHP Jose Quintana (3-1, 3.48 ERA) faces Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija (2-6, 3.25 ERA) on Monday night.