Entering the bottom of the ninth trailing 6-4, Tyler Saladino and Adam Eaton put the Kansas City closer in a bind with a single and a double, saddling him with runners on second and third with nobody out.
Davis handled Tim Anderson with a breaking ball in the dirt for the first out, but Melky Cabrera avoided a similar fate by chopping a 1-2 pitch back through the box. Alcides Escobar was able to save one run by flagging it down before it bounced into center field, and which saved the Royals from extra innings, if not a loss. Davis ended up stranding the tying run on third -- and the winning run at second, as pinch-runner J.B. Shuck advanced on a pitch in the dirt -- by blowing fastballs by Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau, setting up a rubber match on Sunday.
Even before the ninth inning, the Sox had a chance to steal this game. James Shields survived two homers to throw a quality start, while the Sox offense kept Edinson Volquez from finding his 2015 form. Through six, the Sox led 4-3.
That’s when Robin Ventura turned to Chris Beck. I’m not sure what Ventura sees in him, but after tonight, Ventura might not see it anymore, either.
Beck gave up a one-out single to Christian Colon to turn over the lineup, which isn’t bad. But since it’s September, Ned Yost called for Terrance Gore — he of the zero hits and 15 steals in 15 attempts in his major league career — to pinch-run. Beck couldn’t handle the threat, although the Sox didn’t help him out by calling for pitchouts on the first two pitches to Jarrod Dyson. Beck then missed on 3-0, and Gore added insult to injury by stealing on 3-0.
Beck nullified the steal, in that he walked Dyson to put runners on first and second regardless. But then he gave up a double to Whit Merrifield, both speedsters scored easily, and the Royals took a 5-4 lead.
Dan Jennings came in and almost stopped the bleeding. He gave up a single to Eric Hosmer, but Merrifield had to stop at third. Kendrys Morales followed with a rocket one-hopper to short, but with enough overspin to make Anderson fall back after fielding it. His off-balance throw to second pulled Saladino off the bag, and a potential 6-4-3 double play ended up being a run-scoring 6-4 fielder’s choice.
Beck now has a 7.41 ERA, which basically makes him the rookie Matt Albers. I’m not sure why Michael Ynoa doesn’t get his opportunities.
In brighter news, Shields gave up two moonshots -- a two-run blast to Hosmer in the first, and a solo Alex Gordon smash to right in the fourth — but gave the Royals little else. It wasn’t pretty, but he offset four walks with five strikeouts. He came at the Royals with slow stuff, and his changeup was effective to both righties and lefties.
We’re grading Shields on a curve, but he pitched well enough to leave with the lead. The Sox handstakingly climbed back into the game. Cabrera drove in his first run of the game with a fielder’s choice in the third, and Omar Narvaez did the same for Todd Frazier in the fourth, although that was more frustrating since Avisail Garcia ran senselessly into an out at second after first-and-thirding Frazier with a single to right.
They finally found their run-scoring hits in the fifth. After Anderson grounded into a double play to clear the basepaths, Cabrera kept the inning alive with a double, then scored on Abreu’s single to left. Abreu took second on the throw and came around when Morneau doubled to right, which was good enough to give the Sox the lead. Alas, Abreu and Morneau couldn’t find another one of those hits in the ninth.
*Blake Smith pitched a 1-2-3 inning in his MLB debut in the ninth inning. Now we wait to see if his arm survives it
*Saladino picked up his third consecutive three-hit game.
*Chris Kamka shared this not-so-fun fact:
In 14 meetings this season, Royals have outscored White Sox 26-6 in innings 7-8-9— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 11, 2016