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White Sox 3, Royals 2: Jesse Crain keeps rolling

Reliever pitches over outfield gaffe, then picks up victory as offense executes in the ninth

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Jesse Crain's 29th consecutive scoreless outing yielded his second victory of the season. While wins for relievers are often trivial, here's a case where he deserved it.

With one out in the eighth of a 2-2 game, Eric Hosmer hit a routine fly ball to right-center. Alex Rios pursued it with an easy stride, angled to catch it ... and, hearing Alejandro De Aza coming in hard, pulled up. De Aza called for it before he was sure he could get it, and sure enough, the ball landed between them, then bounced past them, for a "triple."

The go-ahead run stood 90 feet away from home plate, but Crain went back to work. He got Salvador Perez to pop out to second for the second out, then lost a seven-pitch battle with Billy Butler for a walk. Pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson stole second to put additional pressure on, but Crain didn't cave. Instead, Crain beat Cain with a curve in the dirt for the third out.

Crain picked up his defense, the offense backed up Crain. Dayan Viciedo bounced a single past Aaron Crow to start the inning with a single. He was replaced by Jordan Danks, but Danks got to jog to second when Jeff Keppinger walked.

For the third time today, the Sox had runners on first and second and nobody out. Ventura called on Gordon Beckham to pinch-hit for Tyler Flowers, which seemed to set up a bunt. Then again, Ventura tried one strategy apiece earlier in the game.

Third inning: De Aza failed to get a bunt down and then struck out. Alexei Ramirez grounded out, and Rios struck out. NO RUNS.

Fourth inning: Conor Gillaspie swung away and singled, Viciedo grounded into a double play, Keppinger singled. TWO RUNS.

Ventura went with what worked before. Even though he had a better bunter in place, he let Beckham swing away. Beckham held up his end of the bargain, hitting a fly deep enough to right center to get Danks to third. That brought De Aza to the plate, and after chasing out of the zone on 3-1 to put the pressure on him, he delivered with a liner to Jeff Francoeur in right. Francoeur didn't have time to set up perfectly behing it, and his throw was up the line as Danks dove into the plate for the go-ahead run. The Royals checked if he left early, and nope.

Give Ventura credit for letting his hitters swing away, and credit the hitters for executing. A third run was all they needed, as Addison Reed pitched a 1-2-3 inning for his 21st save.

The defensive miscue and the presence of Reed at the end makes this a through-and-through 2013 White Sox Victory. The lineup didn't do nearly enough damage against Wade Davis, who entered the game allowing a .325 average against him. Jose Quintana pitched well for 5⅓ innings, but after allowing an RBI single to Perez and walking Butler to put runners on first and second with one out, Ventura had to hook him, because a sixth-inning situation against an unimpressive starter was just too crucial.

Quintana didn't look happy about the hook, but Matt Lindstrom only needed one pitch to show why Ventura wanted him. He got Cain to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to bring a threatening inning to a swift end.

Bullet points:

  • Keppinger had a terrific day in place of Beckham: 3-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, and a great diving catch on a liner.
  • Rios experienced the opposite fortune. He did contribute a double, but he struck out three times, and he was frozen by plate-smothering fastballs twice. The second one nearly led to an ejection, as he slammed the bat down in the batter's box and aired grievances to home plate umpire Mike Everitt. Daryl Boston eventually intervened.
  • Everitt kept his cool, despite a gametime temperature of 90 degrees.

Record: 31-41 | Box score | Play-by-play | Highlights