For some reason, games featuring Chris Sale and a five-run White Sox lead aren't as easy as they should be.
At least this one turned out better than the last time. Sale started the seventh with a 7-2 lead, and four relievers later, Ronald Belisario stranded the tying run on first for the save. And not just any save, but a five-out save.
Since style points don't count, the Sox clawed back to .500 on their eight-game home stand by handing the Giants their fifth straight loss.
Sale wasn't at his best, but Tim Hudson would've gladly switched spots with him. Hudson entered the game as baseball's ERA leader, but the Sox blew it up with seven runs on 12 hits over 4⅔ innings. Jose Abreu blasted an inner-half, 0-2 splitter into the White Sox bullpen in left for a quick 2-0 lead on home run No. 2-0, and Hudson never found a groove afterward.
He escaped a pair of jams in the second and third, but the Sox didn't let him off the hook in the fourth. With the bases loaded and one out, Tyler Flowers took a 1-0 sinker through the middle for a huge two-run single, giving the Sox a 4-0 lead. And when the Giants answered with two in the top of the fifth, Adam Dunn answered with three runs on one swing. He followed up a pair of singles by swatting a high 0-2 (again!) sinker out to right.
That should have put the Sox comfortably ahead, but it was a struggle to close it out. Sale struggled with his release point all afternoon, but he made it through six. He couldn't get an out in the seventh, as Robin Ventura pulled him after the first two batters reached on a single and a walk (that was Sale's only walk of the game, but he did plunk two batters).
In came Jake Petricka, who gave up a single to load the bases, a sac fly to Buster Posey, and another single to bring the tying run to the plate. He responded well to a Don Cooper mound visit though, striking out Mike Morse before an inning-ending flyout by Hector Sanchez.
Zach Putnam picked up where Petricka left off in the eighth, starting the inning with a strikeout, but allowing the next two batters to reach on a single and a walk. Scott Downs came in to face lefty Gregor Blanco, and Blanco doubled in a run to make it a 7-4 game.
That forced Ventura to call for Belisario for a five-out save, which was the right move. Belisario got out of the eighth with a pair of groundouts, which scored one of the two inherited runners. Belisario started the ninth with two more runners, but they were his own, as a double and a single but runners on the corners. He bounced back by striking out Sanchez, retired Tyler Colvin on a sac fly, and got Ehire Adrianza to fly out to center for a routine end to an unusual game.
Sale met the minimum for a quality start despite sub-par stuff (6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K), improving to 6-1, even if his ERA took a bit of a hit (2.20).
*The White Sox struck out once and walked once, and Dunn was responsible for both.
#WhiteSox had 1 strikeout & 1 walk as a team - both by Adam Dunn. Last Sox player to have the lone BB & K in a game: Kenny Williams 4/30/88— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 18, 2014
*Alejandro De Aza fell a homer short of a cycle to raise his average to .207.
*Adam Eaton was thrown out at home on a contact play in the third inning.
My two favorite Ronald Belisario facts:
1. He throws a 97-mph sinker with insane movement
2. He can breathe both in and out of water