With the White Sox deploying second (or fifth) choices at third base and two outfield spots, using a ninth starter on the mound and backing him up with a non-roster invitee, tonight's lineup card resembled the first week of spring training.
And yet there was Hector Noesi, throwing five ininngs of one-run ball to go toe-to-toe with the considerably wealthier Edwin Jackson. And there was Zach Putnam, going six-up-six-down and picking up the win. And there was Moises Sierra, who replaced late scratch Adam Dunn and went 4-for-4.
And there was Gordon Beckham -- technically the Sox' first choice, but well down the depth chart in our hearts -- doing the most damage. Beckham went 4-for-5, including the go-ahead solo homer in the eighth inning that seemed to loosen up a game that spent most of the evening plugged up.
Beckham finally showed the ability to pull the ball, ripping line drives to left, center and left for singles in his first three at-bats. Rick Renteria respected him enough to bring in Neil Ramirez to face him in the eighth inning, after James Russell retired Adam Dunn and Alejandro De Aza to start the inning. Ramirez started ahead 0-2, and after missing with one slider, he hung a second, and Beckham sent it just over the basket in left to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead.
After Scott Downs preserved the lead with a scoreless eighth, the Sox went back to work in the ninth, touching up an ineffective (and possibly injured) Pedro Strop for three more runs. While Alexei Ramirez (walk) and Sierra (infield single) gave the inning a promising start, Tyler Flowers truly began pushing the lead into "comfortable" territory with an RBI double down the left field line. Two batters later, Jordan Danks doubled off the wall in left center to cash in two more runs, and the Sox didn't even have a save situation to consider by the end of it.
The last two innings were quite the departure from the first seven, in which both offenses looked rather inept. The Sox scored their only run off Jackson in the fourth by grunting it across on a single, wild pitch, productive flyout and a run-scoring fielder's choice. Otherwise, Jackson held them in check, allowing just six hits and zero walks (one HBP) while striking out nine -- and the Cubs erased two of those baserunners with pickoffs. Jackson nabbed Beckham after his first-inning single, and Wellington Castillo caught Sierra napping off first.
But Noesi held his own over five innings, too. He kept the Cubs scoreless until two outs of his final inning of work, when Emilio Bonfiacio's soft liner eluded Gordon Beckham's grasp and caromed into right field for an RBI single. Beckham probably should have had it, but he more than made up for the non-error, outscoring the Cubs by himself.