Conor Gillaspie opened the seventh with a homer of Nick Tepesch to break a 2-2 tie, and after a Tyler Flowers single, Alejandro De Aza also put one over the fence in the right-field corner to provide a cushion that Chris Sale and the bullpen wouldn't need. Sure, they tying run came to the plate in the eighth and ninth innings, but Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton and Addison Reed escaped unscathed to end a three-game skid.
(And Reed gets points for making his jam hilarious. He hit A.J. Pierzynski on the elbow with an up-and-in pitch -- and an elbow armor dip from Pierzynski -- with two outs and nobody on. Ian Kinsler followed with a single, but Elvis Andrus swung over a slider to end it.)
The Sox needed this victory, if only because the pitching matchup was in their favor tonight. After losing a Yu Darvish-Jose Quintana bill, Sale prevailed over the surprising rookie Tepesch.
Sale turned a rough night into a gem. He labored through the second inning, throwing 34 pitches while escaping with just two runs allowed. It could have been much worse.
Sale had just been handed a 2-0 lead in a typical White Sox fashion. Alex Rios drove in Alejandro De Aza with a single in the first, then was picked off. Then they loaded the bases on Nick Tepesch with nobody out, and the only run came in on a Flowers 6-4-3 double play. Nevertheless, it was a cushion, and it disappeared in short order in the bottom of the inning.
Jeff Baker struck the first blow with a one-out solo shot, and the next three batters reached on a walk, single, and single. Ian Kinsler then came up with the bases loaded and hit a fly ball to deep left field. Mitch Moreland (on third) and Geovany Soto (on second) both held up to see if De Aza could catch it, but De Aza ended up playing it off the wall. Only Moreland could score, and that tied the game at 2 with the heart of the order coming up.
Sale complicated matters further by falling behind Elvis Andrus 3-0. Andrus made him throw strike one, fouled off four straight, and then swung over ball four for the second out. Sale then got Lance Berkman to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
That Andrus at-bat proved to be the fulcrum of Sale's evening, as Sale went from ruining a 2-0 lead to taking charge of the night. He finished his night retiring 16 of the last 18, staying on the attack with his fastball, and calming down enough to get backdoor sliders. He ended up allowing the two runs on six hits and two walks over seven innings with seven strikeouts. Adrian Beltre was the victim for two of them, including a rather humorous backwards K when Beltre called for time, then walked out of the box assuming Fieldin Culbreth would grant it. Culbreth did not, and Sale threw a changeup down the middle for strike three as Beltre's back was turned.
- The Sox played errorless ball, which shouldn't be a bullet point at this point in the season, but hey. Gillaspie made the best play with a sweet pick charging a tough chopper by Craig Gentry.
- Pitchers helped their cause. Sale started a 1-6-3 double play, and Thornton made a barehanded grab on a chopper that almost cleared his head to strand two in the eighth inning.