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White Sox 9, Rangers 5: Resilient Sale, Sox recover ground

Somehow, Chris Sale improved to 12-3.
Somehow, Chris Sale improved to 12-3.

This was less of a game and more of a bar fight.

If the White Sox had a plan of attack, they had to abandon it when Chris Sale showed up throwing 87. After the Rangers sucker-punched him for four first-inning runs (three on a Nelson Cruz homer), the Sox were just throwing whatever they could at the Rangers in hopes of connecting.

Sometimes they hit their targets. Sometimes they missed by hitting (three HBPs). One time, they hit themselves -- Alexei Ramirez survived a scary collision with Alejandro De Aza, but De Aza had to leave the game.

Yet Sale found a way to survive with nothing, and he had the support of his equally scrappy friends over a draining 3 1/2 hours. Weird things won this game. Dayan Viciedo's defensive awareness won this game. Adam Dunn's speed won this game. Things that may never win another game this year won this game.

After taking the first-inning pounding, the Sox scored five unanswered runs to take a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh. The last one was as important as it was surprising -- Adam Dunn walked, stole second, advanced to third when the throw went into center, and came home to score on a fielder's choice.

Sale appreciated the cushion. He walked Yorvit Torrealba to start the inning, then went full on Craig Gentry before getting a pop-up to shallow center. De Aza was late getting there and late calling off Ramirez. Ramirez was late to peel off. They collided, shoulder-to-shoulder, and both hit the ground.

Thankfully, Viciedo ignored the well being of his teammates temporarily. He was on the spot to back up the play, charged the ball and made an on-target throw to get the incredibly common 8-7-4 force out.

That out turned out to be huge, because Nate Jones came in and loaded the bases by hitting Ian Kinsler "on the hand." It sounded like a bat, and Kinsler's reaction was odd -- he set down the bat gently while falling backwards, and looked like he was attending to the wrong hand. Either way, it loaded the bases, and in came ol' unlucky Matt Thornton put out the fire.

He got Josh Hamilton out on a 3-6 fielder's choice, bringing one run home to make it 6-5. He stayed in the game to face two righties, Adrian Beltre and Michael Young. He didn't give Beltre anything to hit, and he walked on five pitches to reload the bases. Young got something to hit, and he jumped on it and crushed a liner to right field ...

... right at Alex Rios, to end the inning. Thornton's rain cloud was nowhere to be seen on a 95-degree night.

Dunn's wheels gave the Sox even more insurance in the ninth. He drew a one-out walk against Alexi Ogando, and two batters later, scored all the way from first on an Alex Rios double. Joe McEwing was going to test the relay from deep left, and Elvis Andrus couldn't handle David Murphy's OK throw. Dropping it allowed Rios to take third, but the last 90 feet came easy, because Alexei Ramirez delivered his fourth homer of the year for the first comfortable margin of the evening. Ron Washington had it in mind to use Ogando for the last 2 2/3 innings, and the Sox looked increasingly comfortable against him.

Addison Reed closed out the non-save situation, preserving a win for Chris Sale that was better than it looked. Sale's drop in velocity was so noticeable that Hawk Harrelson was reading his velocity after every pitch. He couldn't even muster excitement for "He gones," at least until he froze Torrealba with an inside-corner fastball at 91 to end the fourth.

Even with the diminished stuff, he did manage to fan six over 6 1/3 innings, He struck out the side in the fifth in an unusual fashion. After hitting Gentry and walking Kinsler to start the inning, Washington wanted Andrus to bunt. After two bad attempts, Andrus showed bunt again -- and then pulled the bat back as a slider darted into the center of the zone for strike three.

Had Andrus bunted successfully, it still wouldn't have made sense. Following him was the incredibly lost Josh Hamilton, who swung feebly at three sliders for the second out. Beltre was a much stouter challenge, but Sale pitched him beautifully, getting ahead with four straight sliders, then freezing him with a fastball on the inside corner as Beltre looked for off-speed away.

Cruz's opposite-field homer was the only major blow against Sale. The rest of the six hits were singles, and he only walked two batters (although the two HBPs factor in as well). Whatever the case, he had enough to outpitch fellow 11-game-winner Darvish, who let the 4-1 lead slip away. Kevin Youkilis crushed a two-run homer just left of center in the second inning to immediately answer the Rangers' initial outburst, and De Aza bounced a two-run single through the right side in the fourth to give the Sox a lead they wouldn't lose.

Bullet points:

  • Brett Myers pitched in the first situation designed for him and succeeded -- Cruz smoked a lineout to left (nice read by Viciedo), Mike Napoli struck out, Torrealba singled, and pinch-hitting Murphy bounced out to short.
  • With the win and a Tigers loss, the Sox lead by 1 1/2 games, which means they've recovered the three games lost in the Detroit sweep.

Record: 54-45 | Box score | Play-by-play