Just think how easy this game would have been if Chris Sale resembled himself, rather than hot garbage for the first three-plus innings.
Then again, maybe this game wouldn't have been that much fun.
Perhaps Sale pulled some high-level meaning-of-Christmas stuff, but his ugly start set the stage for a rollicking three-hour, 47-minute affair that featured the White Sox scoring in six of eight innings and taking three different leads, capped by a six-single, four-run eighth that gave the Sox a big enough cushion to ward off one last threat.
Nah, pointing to Sale is overthinking it. When the Sox offense scores 10 runs on 17 hits, start at Jose Abreu and work backward.
Abreu had another perfect night of the plate, going 3-for-3 with a walk and a HBP. He extended his hitting streak to 21, but he's also reached base in 10 consecutive plate appearances.
Many others joined in the fun. Tyler Flowers took Anthony Swarzak for a solo shot in the fifth inning that tied the game at 5. One inning later, Alexei Ramirez smoked hanging slider off the wall in left to drive in Abreu, who singled with two outs to keep the inning alive.
That gave the Sox a 6-5 lead after six and put Sale in position for the win against all odds, but turning the game over to the bullpen didn't help calm things down. The Twins BABIP'd back into a tie game by scoring a run on five grounders off Daniel Webb, and Chris Parmalee crushed a misplaced Eric Surkamp fastball to right center to give the Twins a 7-6 lead.
But those blows merely set the stage for the Sox' own BABIP masterpiece in the eighth.
Adam Eaton led off with a single to left. After Gordon Beckham struck out, Jose Abreu drilled a single to center, and an aggressive Eaton took third. He scored on Paul Konerko's game-tying single to left, on which an aggressive Abreu took third. That baserunning paid off when Alexei Ramirez dropped a bloop single to right. Abreu had to hold up to see if it'd drop, and he slid in as the throw escaped Kurt Suzuki.
Dayan Viciedo replaced Konerko at second, and that moved paid off two batters later when Tyler Flowers shot a single through the right side. Viciedo slid in behind Suzuki's swipe tag for a 9-7 lead, and Alejandro De Aza came through with a single of his own to make it a three-run lead.
The inning ended when Moises Sierra just got under a first-pitch fastball, and his bid for a moonshot died on the warning track. The tally -- six singles, two drives to the wall, and ... whatever it was Beckham did.
That gave Jake Petricka a three-run lead, and it came in handy. Petricka gave up two infield singles -- the first hitting off both his legs and requiring a visit from Herm Schneider. Josh Willingham loaded the bases with a single, and Kurt Suzuki grounded into a fielder's choice -- that could've been a double play had Beckham provided a better feed -- to make it 10-8.
But Petricka saved his nastiest stuff for that moment. He froze Kennys Vargas with an inside-corner fastball, then blew a hotter heater past Oswaldo Arcia to lock down his seventh save.
Javy Guerra picked up the win for retiring both batters he faced, but he was the only one of five Sox pitchers to emerge unscathed.
Sale set the tone with an ugly start -- he worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first on 25 pitches, then seemed to calm down by striking out two in the a 1-2-3 second. But after the Sox gave him a 2-0 lead, Sale promptly gave it up. He had a fastball that hit 98, but his location was spotty. Worse yet, his changeup command was seldom seen, and his slider command was nonexistent.
His start turned in an at-bat against Willingham in third inning. He gave up a pair of one-out singles to bring Willingham to the plate, but after getting ahead 1-2, he missed badly with two changeups to load the count. Not being able to risk a walk, he tried blowing a fastball by Willingham at 98, and Willingham blew it by Sale instead, shooting a single to right center for the game's first run.
Kurt Suzuki tied with a double past Conor Gillaspie, and a Vargas ground-rule double in the right-field corner scored two to make it a 4-2 game. A passed ball (on a bad fastball) moved Vargas to third, and he scored on Chris Colabello's groundout. After giving up three runs in all of July, Sale gave up five in the third inning (four earned) alone.
Eduardo Escobar led off the fourth with a double, but just when it looked like Sale might be heading for an early exit, he finally found his location. He retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced, doing some of it himself (three strikeouts), and getting help from his friends (a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch on the track by Sierra).
Sale ended up lasting six, allowing the five runs on eight hits, a walk and a hit batter while striking out seven. We've rarely seen Sale look worse but we've definitely seen worse outcomes.
*Sierra's drive for playing time is off to a great start. Along with the catch that earned a big hug from Sale in the dugout, he went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple in the second. He scored on Eaton's crafty bunt to give the Sox an early 2-0 lead.
*Eaton also had two hits, and Konerko, Ramirez, Flowers and De Aza contributed two hits apiece as well.
*The Sox stranded 11, that's the good kind of 11 stranded. They went 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position, which shows you how much traffic they had on the bases all night (17 hits, four walks and a HBP).