Friday the 13th lived up to its billing with unbelievably agonizing baseball for all involved. On Saturday the 14th, in the 14th inning, Kevin Youkilis took the 14th pitch he saw to center field for a sac fly for the Sox's 14th run off the Royals 14th pitcher ...
That's not quite true -- it was the ninth run, off the Royals ninth pitcher, but it finally proved to be the game-winning run nevertheless. Dylan Axelrod, in his second inning of work as the Sox's ninth pitcher, threw a 1-2-3 inning (and made a helluva pick on a Paul Konerko throw at first) to close out a five-hour, 23-minute marathon.
Both teams also experienced their share of bad luck, which they might have deserved due to terrible decision-making before and after.
Bottom of the eighth inning: Nate Jones unintentionally intentionally walks Alex Gordon, putting the go-ahead run on base. Then he throws Alcides Escobar a 1-2 fastball down the middle, and Escobar smacks it into the right-center gap for a two-run triple, giving the Royals the lead.
Top of the ninth inning: Broxton walks two batters on eight pitches, loading the bases with one out. A.J. Pierzynski singles in the tying run, but Jeff Francouer throws out pinch-runner Orlando Hudson at the plate, with Salvador Perez diving across to tag Hudson's hand as his hand crossed the far corner of the plate. Frame-by-frame replays suggest Hudson beat Perez, but in real-time, the call could have gone either way.
Bottom of the ninth inning: Billy Butler reaches on an infield single, and Leyson Septimo compounds the problem by making an ill-advised throw into right-field four territory, giving Butler second. Pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson enters, nearly gets thrown out by Alejandro De Aza on a lineout to shallow center, and then gets picked off by Septimo.
Bottom of the tenth inning: With one out, pinch-running Jason Bourgeois takes off for second. Gordon Beckham runs to cover the bag, and as luck would have it, is led right to Lorenzo Cain's line drive for an inning-ending 4-3 double play.
Bottom of the 11th inning: In his second inning of his White Sox debut, Jhan Marinez intentionally walks Eric Hosmer, then unintentionally walks Dyson to load the bases. So Yuniesky Betancourt swings at the first pitch for an infield fly. In comes Hector Santiago, who gets Mike Moustakas to chop out to end the inning.
Bottom of the 12th: After Beckham lands an RBI double just inside the right-field foul line to give the Sox the lead, Reed runs into immediate trouble by giving up a double to Francoeur on his fourth straight fastball. Reed didn't have his slider, and the Royals made him pay. A single up the middle moved Frenchy to third, and a Gordon chopper over the mound scored him to tie the game.
Top of the 13th: With Orlando Hudson on first and two outs, Pierzynski smokes an Everett Teaford pitch to deep right field. It gets over Francoeur's head ... but it also bounces over the fence for a ground rule double. Hudson, who probably would have scored, has to hold up at third, and Jordan Danks ends the inning with a flyout.
The Sox finally broke through again the next inning. Beckham drew a one-out walk, then went to third on a hit-and-run single by De Aza down the left-field line. With the go-ahead run 90 feet from home, Youkilis fell behind 1-2. He fouled off two pitches, took a ball. He fouled off two pitches, and took a ball to work the count full. With De Aza in motion, Youkilis fouled off four more before he finally found one he could send deep enough to center field to finally end the damn thing.
Outside of the eighth and ninth innings (pinch-running with Hudson instead of the faster Escobar was a strange choice), Ventura did a pretty decent job of managing this game. He threw his rookies into the fire, with Brian Omogrosso pitching his first scoreless outing (one inning with a one-run lead), and he extended Septimo and the just-promoted Marinez past three outs. They both escaped unscathed, too. He had Reed for a lead on the road, and Axelrod as the last resort.
Perhaps this game should have been easier, because homers by Adam Dunn and Alex Rios in the first inning gave Jose Quintana a three-run lead before he took the mound. But he gave it right back in the second inning on a Moustakas homer and a few two-out hits.
The Royals extended the lead to 5-3 on a Francoeur homer and another two-out RBI, giving Bruce Chen his first lead. But Chen ran into trouble in the fifth. Ned Yost had an inkling to pull him after Pierzynski singled to put two on and two outs. However, he tried to stick with Chen to close out the inning, and Dayan Viciedo made him pay with a three-run moonshot just left of center. That gave the Sox a 6-5 lead and put the game back on a wacky trajectory.
Who's ready for another All-Star break?