It’s the kind of play the White Sox probably expected Mike Moustakas to make, given how many hits the slick-fielding Kansas City third baseman has taken away in the past.
But Moustakas couldn’t cleanly glove Jose Abreu’s chopper in the bottom of the sixth inning, and all of a sudden, a previously-listless offense had a rally going.
The White Sox went on to score five times in the bottom of the sixth to blow past Kansas City for a 5-3 win Sunday afternoon in front of 23,317 at U.S. Cellular Field. Had Moustakas cleanly fielded the ball — center fielder Adam Eaton, who was on third at the time, cautioned that it wasn’t an easy play — he probably would’ve turned an inning-ending double play to keep the Royals ahead by a 3-0 score.
“When there’s a mistake being made or maybe a close play that’s not made, you have to pounce on that,” Eaton said. “If you’re going to be a good team you have to do that.”
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That’s exactly what the White Sox did, as after Eaton scored on the error Adam LaRoche flipped Edinson Volquez’s two-strike curveball into center for an RBI single. Avisail Garcia loaded the bases with a line drive single to center and, following Alexei Ramirez's strikeout, Conor Gillaspie lined a low fastball into right for a go-ahead two-run single. Flowers tacked on the fifth run with an RBI single to right.
For an inning that opened with an outstanding defensive play — Kansas City left fielder Alex Gordon leapt over the short wall down the left field line to catch Micah Johnson’s foul ball, inadvertently body-slamming an unsuspecting fan in the process — the White Sox did well to come back and secure a series victory over the defending American League champs.
“Their whole defense doesn't give many opportunities,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I think you even saw what Gordon was doing in left field, he made some great plays on us. You have to take advantage of it when you get a chance like that. It was a great little run right there for our offense in coming back.
“Volquez was throwing great. He was tough and you know the shadows are coming eventually so it was nice to push those across. Big at-bats by Conor there and (Flowers) to get an extra one. It was a nice job by the offense to just really keep it going.”
The sixth-inning rally made sure John Danks’ second consecutive quality start wasn’t wasted, as the left-hander fired six innings of three-run ball with eight strikeouts. Jake Petricka, Zach Duke and David Robertson combined to throw three scoreless innings to nail down the victory, with Robertson notching a save about three and a half hours after he earned the win in the continuation of Friday’s suspended game.
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Winning both games on Sunday was a nice mental jolt for the White Sox after they’d been beat up — literally and figuratively — by Kansas City in their first four meetings of the season. Eaton admitted that if the Royals came into Chicago and swept this series there probably would’ve been a mental block the next time they played them, even if that’s not until mid-July.
“Against a team that's already played you tough, you have to be able to withstand it and keep going and stick together,” Ventura said. “These guys are definitely doing it.”
This week’s upcoming seven-game road trip to Baltimore and Minnesota should provide a better indication of whether the White Sox have righted the ship after that 0-4 start, though the club has won three of its last five series (including a two-game split in Cleveland).
But whether it was Gillaspie ripping that go-ahead single or Melky Cabrera making a fantastic leaping catch to take away an RBI in the eighth, the White Sox can see themselves establishing the kind of identity they expected to have at the beginning of the season.
“Over the last five or six games we’ve played a really good brand of baseball,” Duke said. “Early on you are kind of trying to feel each other out and see how you are going to figure out to win games. I feel like we are starting to do that and playing our style.”