Alex Rios' (game-)winning smile.
Home runs by Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios were the only ways the Sox could put runs on the board, but it was enough support for a resurgent Gavin Floyd, who worked seven ultra-efficient innings for his first victory since Aug. 15.
Floyd had to toughen up, too. He started the game by committing a couple of cardinal sins, walking the leadoff man and pitching to Billy Butler with first base open, which turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit.
Hawk Harrelson wouldn't let viewers forget that walk, but the way he pitched the last six innings makes it forgivable. After all, if you step back and apply the butterfly effect theory, maybe not walking the leadoff man takes him down a road to a three-inning outing?
What we do know is that Floyd pitched seven outstanding innings, each one seemingly easier than the one before it. He got Butler to ground into a double play (a 6-3 job featuring nifty footwork by Alexei Ramirez), and ended up retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. The lone exception was a two-out Jeff Francoeur double off the very top of the left field wall in the fourth, but Floyd stranded him at second. He needed just 78 pitches.
That missing foot of distance turned out to be huge. The Royals needed a two-run lead, because the White Sox had two deep drives in their arsenal that cleared the wall by plenty. Gordon Beckham led off the sixth inning with a 398-foot drive to left, and Alex Rios' blast was even more resounding, landing over the concourse inside the left-field foul pole.
Throw in a leadoff homer by Alejandro De Aza (who went 2-for-4 in his first game back from slump rest), and that was the White Sox offense. They couldn't get many runners into scoring position, and they couldn't come through with a hit when they did, going 0-for-5. That's not pretty, but at this time of the year, it's all survive and advance.
The Sox were far more aesthetically pleasing on the pitching side. Over the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, Floyd and Matt Thornton only needed 33 pitches. After working a clean eighth, Thornton also struck out Alex Gordon after falling behind 3-0 for the first out in the ninth. Robin Ventura then gave the ball to Addison Reed to face Butler and Salvador Perez, and Reed got a weak groundout and flyout to end the game.
White Sox pitchers retired the last 16 batters they faced, and the magic number is down to 13.
- A.J. Pierzynski was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double on Gordon's arm in left.
- Gavin Floyd won his 10th game, giving him double digits in that column for the fifth straight season. He was 1-4 with a 6.38 ERA in seven career starts at Kauffman Stadium.