With solid pitching and better defense, the White Sox and Rangers were tangled in a battle of endurance on a 93-degree night. Sure enough, it took two extended plate appearances in extra innings to close out this game.
Alejandro De Aza and Kevin Youkilis strung together two of the toughest battles you'll see this year, and it paid off in a big-time walk-off win.
De Aza started the 10th by fouling an 0-1 Mike Adams pitch directly off his front kneecap. He hit the ground, writhed in pain, and didn't want Herm Schneider anywhere near his patella. After a minute, De Aza was able to get back onto his feet and back in the box, and he was in the mood for payback. Six pitches later (including two foul balls that didn't hit his person), De Aza drew a walk.
That brought Youkilis to the plate, and his plate appearance started with five straight foul balls. De Aza tried running on the second pitch, which drew Adams' attention, and a couple of pickoff throws. They didn't deter De Aza from taking off, and on the first pitch Youkilis didn't have to swing at, De Aza stole second easily to put a runner in scoring position.
Another foul ball and an extremely close check-swing later, Youkilis evened the count. And on the next pitch, Youkilis roped a single over the head of a leaping Elvis Andrus, scoring De Aza for a Youk-off victory.
So, in Youkilis' first two-games, he homered in his first at-bat, ended a game with his most recent one. Plus, he played some outstanding defense in between, which was part of an overall terrific team effort.
Dylan Axelrod needed the help.
The Rangers tried to demoralize him early with three first-inning runs -- all after Axelrod retired the first two batters. But he hung in there and threw strikes, and outside of an 0-2 pitch that Josh Hamilton got on top of for a solo homer, he let his defense help him out. They were up to the challenge, and even after Axelrod left the game.
A.J. Pierzynski ended an inning for Axelrod in the fourth, when he gunned down Ian Kinsler at second on what would've been a 3-1 count for Elvis Andrus. When Andrus came back to the plate to start the fifth, Youkilis made a fine charging play on a swinging bunt to keep the leadoff man off base. He ended that inning even better than he started it, making a backhanded play down the line and throwing to first in time to retire Adrian Beltre.
Gordon Beckham made the game's biggest play in the eighth. With runners on the corners and two outs, Michael Young hit a bouncer up the middle. Beckham ranged to his right, planted, and made a strong throw to first to end the threat.
The bullpen also picked it up. Matt Thornton looked in command during his two perfect innings, and Addison Reed followed with an easy, seven-pitch, three-high-fly outs in the 10th.
The Sox gave Reed the win with Youkilis' RBI single, which was their first run since the second. In fact, they had done all their scoring in that inning, which wasn't terrible considering the 3-0 hole Axelrod dug for himself.
Alex Rios started the rally with a one-out double off Scott Feldman, following by Pierzynski taking a pitch in the upper arm on 0-2. Dayan Viciedo scored Rios with a single to right-center, and Alexei Ramirez followed with his own opposite-field single to score Pierzynski, who bowled over Mike Napoli at home to get to the plate.
Ramirez and Viciedo moved up a base on the throw, and Gordon Beckham cashed them both in to give the Sox a 4-3 lead. Although Axelrod couldn't hold the lead, he left in the sixth inning with the game tied, which is all you can ask from a seventh starter. The Sox have won both his starts against the Yankees and Rangers, which is something.