ARLINGTON, Texas -- Chris Sale was so bewildered by events in the second inning on Wednesday night he shook his head as he walked into the dugout.
Fortunately for Sale and the White Sox it was the only time the young ace was left in a confused state.
After an early hiccup, Sale bounced back and regained top form and the White Sox took advantage with a 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers in front of 34,677 at Rangers Ballpark. Conor Gillaspie and Alejandro De Aza both homered late and Addison Reed pitched out of trouble after he hit former teammate A.J. Pierzynski with a pitch as the White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak.
“My arm was loose and I was throwing the ball well,” Sale said. “I left a couple of balls up, but I felt like that was really the turning point. After that inning I kind of found my rhythm and found myself.”
Sale looked sharp in his first inning of work but squandered a 2-0 White Sox lead in a 34-pitch second frame.
Texas left fielder Jeff Baker opened the scoring with a one-out solo homer to left to make it 2-1. Sale then walked Mitch Moreland and Geovany Soto, and Craig Gentry and Ian Kinsler both singled, the last hitting high off the left-field fence but only scoring the tying run as Soto had to advance with caution.
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But just as yet another implosion appeared probable, Sale pitched his way out of trouble. He struck out Elvis Andrus and got ahead in the count of Lance Berkman, getting an inning-ending groundout to preserve the tie.
“It definitely could have got out of hand,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “He was settled down enough and the biggest thing is getting ahead of guys and making a good pitch on Berkman to end the inning. (Sale) just got behind and you can’t be as fine. That’s a pretty good hitting team over there.”
Sale didn’t fall behind much the rest of the way.
He only needed 60 more pitches, 38 of which were strikes, to complete five more innings. After Sale loaded the bases in the second, he used an overpowering fastball to retire 16 of the final 18 batters he faced.
“The one inning it just seemed like there were people all over the place,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “(Sale) kind of gutted through it. After that he was pretty good as far as getting ahead and keeping them off-balance.”
The White Sox got ahead of Texas starter Nick Tepesch early and then pulled away late.
They scored in the first inning on an Alex Rios RBI single and Flowers made it 2-0 when he grounded into a run-scoring double play in the second.
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Gillaspie then untied the game in seventh inning with a 384-foot solo homer to right field, his third of the season. Four batters later, De Aza lined a 3-2 offering from Tepesch over the fence in right with Flowers aboard to put the White Sox ahead 5-2.
“(Gillaspie’s) was a big one,” Ventura said. “You get that run, you go ahead and you tack on De Aza’s; we don’t have that many where you’re (way) out in front.”
The three-run cushion proved to be significant as the Rangers brought the tying run to the plate in each of the final two innings.
Matt Thornton stifled a potential rally when he induced a comebacker, on which he made a bare-hand stop, off the bat of Daniel Murphy to end the eighth with men aboard.
But the real drama occurred in the ninth when Pierzynski stepped into the batter’s box for the first time against his old team against Reed. Reed threw a first-pitch strike to Pierzynski but then hit the veteran catcher on his elbow guard with his next offering.
Pierzynski voiced his displeasure as he made his way to first base. A few seconds later, he was on second after Kinsler singled. But Reed converted his ninth save in nine tries as he struck out Andrus.
“I don’t think I would be too happy either,” Reed said. “Obviously, 1-2-3 would be nice to do. Everything worked out fine and we got out of there with the win.”