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White Sox 7, Royals 6: No lead is safe, but this one holds up

Offense builds a big cushion, and a leaky bullpen uses up all of it

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

If we've learned one thing from the first two games of this series, it's that five-run leads can't be taken for granted.

One day after the White Sox rallied from a 5-0 deficit, a shaky bullpen and some equally questionable judgment nearly spoiled a 7-2 lead. Scott Downs and Frank Francisco created a save situation, and Ronald Belisario used half of the two-run cushion to record his first save, stranding the tying run on second to do so.

Then again, maybe the better lesson is that scoring seven runs is quite beneficial to the success of a team, and the Sox should continue this successful strategy.

The White Sox offense made Yordano Ventura look ... yordinary. He came into the game with a 2.40 ERA and 53 strikeouts over 48⅔ innings, but the Sox tagged him for four runs on seven hits over six innings. On top of that, they only struck out three times all game.

Ventura held the Sox down for four innings, taking a 2-1 lead into the fifth. But with one out, Tyler Flowers smashed a hanging curve just inside the left field foul pole to tun the game, and that seemed to stun Ventura. Or maybe it was Adam Eaton following with a blooper that a sliding Alex Gordon lost in the lights, which turned into a double.

Either way, Ventura lost his command. He threw a wild pitch to move Eaton to third, and that turned into a run when Gordon Beckham chopped a ball over the drawn-in third baseman. Then Beckham moved to second on a wild pitch, took third on a Conor Gillaspie groundout, and scored via the Wild Pitch Offense once again.

The Sox had a 4-2 lead, and a three-run homer by Adam Dunn in the eighth extended the lead to 7-2. But perhaps that lead was a little too comfortable, because some odd management in the eighth turned the last two innings into white-knucklers.

Jake Petricka relieved Andre Rienzo in the seventh and threw an easy inning. With a five-run lead, Scott Downs came in to face Eric Hosmer, and presumably pitch the eighth. He gave up a double and a walk, and a passed ball by Flowers moved them both into scoring position. A routine groundout thus turned into a run, and Robin Ventura turned the game over to Frank Francisco.

For some reason, Francisco did not have backup help in the bullpen -- not after Lorenzo Cain singled to make it 7-4, not after a stolen base, not after a walk, not after another stolen base. Only around the time a second wild pitch scored a run to make it a 7-5 game did Zach Putnam get up and start throwing.

The Sox had to stall like mad, and after Francisco gave up a single to Pedro Ciriaco to put runners on the corners, the Sox had to stall a little more before Putnam came in. He somehow escaped the jam without giving up a run, getting a pinch-hitting Mike Moustakas to pop out on a fastball at his eyes, and getting Norichika Aoki to groundout on a terrific play from Alexei Ramirez, who hit the ground and threw from his knees to end the inning.

Ronald Belisario pitched the ninth, and while he gave up a run, it wasn't particularly discouraging the way he did it. He gave up a two-out double to Billy Butler, and after another passed ball (he crossed up Flowers), Alex Gordon pulled an outside pitch through the right side for an RBI single.

Pinch-running Jarrod Dyson entered and stole second on a very close play. Flowers made an excellent throw, but it held up after a challenge, and Belisario ran the risk of being iced on an 0-1 count to Lorenzo Cain. Those worries were unfounded, as Belisario blew away Cain on two sinkers to end the game.

In the process, he preserved a victory for Andre Rienzo, who ran his record to 4-0. He outpitched his highly touted counterpart handily, striking out a career-high eight over six innings. He experienced a control lapse in the second inning and paid for it with a two-run double by Danny Valencia, but he rebounded to post zeroes the rest of the way. He was running on empty at the end of the sixth, but a liner by Ciriaco with two on found Gillaspie's glove for the third out, a loud but harmless close to a successful night's work.

Bullet points:

*Gordon Beckham and Conor Gillaspie went 6-for-9 in the second and third spots. Gillaspie hit a two-out triple in the first, and Dayan Viciedo cashed him in to give the Sox a quick 1-0 lead.

*The Royals were 4-for-4 stealing bases, but Flowers didn't really have a chance on any of them. Meanwhile, the Sox were 0-for-1, with Eaton's head hitting Ciriaco's knee while diving into second on his unsuccessful attempt.

Record: 23-24 | Box score | Play-by-play | Highlights