ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It was bound to happen and fortunately for Jeff Keppinger and the White Sox it came at a most opportune time.
Keppinger drew his first walk of the season with the bases loaded to force in the go-ahead run and the White Sox rallied for a 5-4 victory over the Angels in front of 37,711 at Angel Stadium on Thursday night.
Before the eighth inning, the second baseman had gone 140 plate appearances without a walk before he took one on four pitches from Angels reliever Michael Kohn with two outs to cap a three-run White Sox rally.
Keppinger, who drove in two runs in Wednesday’s win over Minnesota, had two more as he reached base in three of four plate appearances and the White Sox won a series opener for only the third time in 14 tries this season.
As certain as the walk was to eventually happen, Keppinger -- who also saved a run with a late defensive stop -- also knew a question would arise in a postgame media session and beat media members to the punch.
“Please don’t ask about the walk,” Keppinger said with a smile before he continued. “Anything I can do to help the team win. The walk, it feels good. It came at a big time. Hadn’t had one all year and it was a good time to get one. Put us ahead.”
The White Sox also picked a good time for only their second rally in 16 games when trailing after seven innings.
Down 4-2, Alejandro De Aza and Alexei Ramirez both singled with no outs and advanced 90 feet on Ramirez’s hit when center fielder Mike Trout made an ill-advised throw to third. De Aza then scored on a wild pitch by reliever Dane De La Rosa (1-1) and Adam Dunn, who went 2-for-4, tied the score as he continued his hot streak with a single to right.
Dunn, who is 6-for-15 with six RBIs on the road trip, said it was the team’s ability to put together consecutive good at-bats that sparked the rally.
“We had some great at-bats, pitches that were close and we were able to lay off of ‘em for the most part,” Dunn said.
They were especially mindful of the strike zone with Kohn on the mound.
After the right-hander retired Paul Konerko his command collapsed.
He walked Conor Gillaspie and Dayan Viciedo to load the bases for Keppinger, who has struggled mightily in his first quarter-season with his new team.
Until Thursday, Keppinger had a lower on-base percentage than batting average because he hadn’t yet walked. A White Sox fan had even gone as far to start a Twitter account based upon whether or not Keppinger had walked.
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Kohn made it easy for Keppinger as he didn’t come close to a strike during a four-pitch walk that forced in the go-ahead run. A contact hitter by trade, Keppinger said he planned to take two strikes before he would swing.
He also knew he hadn’t walked to date.
“Oh I know,” Keppinger said. “Anybody knows if you don’t have a walk yet. I’m looking to hit the fastball. I don’t foul too many pitches off, so when I do hit ‘em and its not going good for me, going bad, I get a lot of rollovers and little flies to the outfield.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura appreciated his team’s good at-bats in the inning. He believes they were a carry-over from the team’s series in Minnesota, where hitters eased the pressure on themselves by coming through in clutch situations. Instead of wasting numerous freebies handed to them, Ventura believes his players were in prime position to handle the situation.
“You need to take advantage that’s the one thing,” Ventura said. “I think tonight is just one of those nights where because of the last few games, you don’t have anybody wanting to do something extra special. Just going up and playing the game and let it happen instead of swinging at one of those and trying to be overly aggressive and make something happen.”
The White Sox did the same earlier as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit. Alex Rios blasted an estimated 435-440 foot home run in the third inning to cut the lead to one. Conor Gillaspie then doubled in the fifth, moved to third on a Viciedo grounder and scored on Keppinger’s grounder to short, a ball booted by Angels shortstop Erick Aybar.