Beckham's blast lifts Sale, White Sox to win
Eighth-inning solo shot snaps tie after lefty escapes jam
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com | 8/6/2012 11:57 PM ET
Sale makes a great play to keep the game tied
CHICAGO -- Chris Sale made one point abundantly clear during Monday's 4-2 victory over the Royals before 30,097 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Give the southpaw nine days between starts, and there will be absolutely no questions about his velocity.
As for holding the Royals (45-63) to a pair of solo homers over eight innings and working his way out of a game-changing situation in the eighth? Well, Sale already has proven himself as one of the American League's top starters during the 2012 season, so that was nothing new.
"He had good stuff tonight," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, whose 18th homer leading off the seventh tied the game at 2. "He was getting it up there at 95 [mph] and if he's throwing that hard, you know he's got the slider, the changeup."
"Everything felt good. It felt comfortable out there," Sale said. "Sometimes when you feel too loose you try to do a little bit too much and that's the thing I was trying not to do."
Even in the seventh inning, on his 88th pitch out of 101, Sale touched 95 with his fastball for a called third strike on Eric Hosmer. That number presents a sizable contrast to his last start on July 27 in Texas, when Sale topped out at 92 on just two occasions over 6 1/3 innings.
Sale struck out seven on Monday and didn't issue a walk. But it was both his pitching and defense that saved the White Sox from trouble in the top of the eighth.
Tony Abreu opened the frame with a double down the third-base line, and the go-ahead run moved to third on Chris Getz's single to center. Sale (13-3) was up to the first-and-third, no-out challenge, though, with the help of Alexei Ramirez's diving grab to his right on Alex Gordon's spinning liner.
Alcides Escobar, hitting .300, was called upon to lay down a safety squeeze, but Escobar pushed it toward third base instead of the desired direction of toward first. Sale fielded the bunt and tagged Abreu on the run down the line, causing a minor collision that caused no harm.
"I saw the ball down," said Sale. "Out of the corner of my eye, I saw he was still halfway down the line. I picked it up and tried to make sure I had the ball in my glove and put the tag on him."
"That's a situation that's tailor-made for [Escobar] right there," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "First and third, one out, safety squeeze, for him to take a pitch and bunt it to first base. Konerko's got to hold because he's got Getz -- who's a running threat, so he can't break real early. Sale made a nice play, but it wasn't a good bunt."
Lorenzo Cain struck out on three pitches to end the wasted rally, with Cain swinging wildly through Sale's high fastball for strike three. Sale set up the victory over the first 7 1/2 innings, and Gordon Beckham provided the finishing touch.
Beckham's 10th homer came on the first pitch from Luis Mendoza (5-8) with one out in the eighth, giving the White Sox a 3-2 edge. Kevin Youkilis followed with a run-scoring double to bring in Jordan Danks, ending the night for Mendoza at 7 1/3 innings, but it was Beckham's first homer since June 20 against the Cubs that held up as the game-winner.
"I've had some bad luck, but at the same time, you have bad luck coupled with bad at-bats and it doesn't go your way," said Beckham, who is hitting .228 with 39 RBIs. "It was good to get one tonight after I definitely made an adjustment in the last at-bat from yesterday's game. It made some sense and helped me slow down a little bit."
"It was that one inning where we had first and third and didn't get it done and then they came back and scored," Gordon said. "Total momentum change right there. Gotta give them credit. They capitalized and we didn't. Just didn't get it done."
Kansas City used the long ball to score off Sale, as Jeff Francoeur (fifth inning) and Billy Butler (seventh inning) both went deep. The White Sox countered with the two homers, Youkilis' extra-base hit and A.J. Pierzynski's run-scoring double following Alex Rios' one-out triple in the second.
Pierzynski had two hits, but his franchise record-tying streak of games with a home run ended at five straight.
This 10th win in the past 13 games for the White Sox and 13th win in the last 15 home games helped them maintain a 1 1/2-game lead over the Tigers in the American League Central, after the Tigers beat the Yankees, 7-2. The White Sox also moved to 12 over .500 for the first time at 60-48.
Their formula for success has been fairly simple: airtight defense, clutch hitting late and overall stingy pitching. A team once thought to have little margin for error now gives the opposition little margin for error to win games on a nightly basis.
"You need more than one guy, I know that," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who watched Addison Reed close out the victory for save No. 20. "Everybody needs to chip in, one way or another. When the bottom of the order does things, we usually win those games."
Having Sale pitch as he did Monday doesn't hurt the cause either. Now, the challenge for Sale is perform the same job on regular rest Sunday.