KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Andre Rienzo wants to create baseball fans in his native Brazil, a country known worldwide for its dominant soccer teams.
The White Sox pitcher had to have created quite a few new fans on Wednesday night.
Only the second major leaguer ever from his country, Rienzo became the first Brazilian pitcher to earn a major league victory as the White Sox downed the Kansas City Royals 5-2 at Kauffman Stadium. Rienzo allowed two runs over six innings and Dayan Viciedo belted a grand slam as the White Sox won for a season-best fifth straight game.
“It means a lot for me and for the country, showing we have baseball there too and not just soccer,” Rienzo said. “I’m trying to open doors. Because they have the talent there but not too much people go there to watch players because it’s just soccer, soccer, soccer. I hope I open doors and people go there and see more guys to play baseball.”
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Rienzo wasn’t terribly sharp in a 101-pitch effort.
He issued three walks, including two to start innings.
But the right-hander made up for it as he recorded nine of 18 outs on ground balls, including a third-inning double play that wiped out a leadoff walk.
Rienzo limited the Royals to five hits and he struck out five to earn his first victory after four no-decisions.
“He keeps battling,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “But he was able to get out of it with the ground ball. Good, gutsy win. Once he got that lead, he just kind of worked it. … Any time a guy gets his first win, it’s special.”
After four no-decisions in four solid starts, the White Sox practically ensured Rienzo would walk away a winner against Jeremy Guthrie with a five-run, fourth-inning rally.
Alexei Ramirez, who had two hits, opened the fourth with his 33rd double and scored to make it 1-0 when Adam Dunn singled through an opening in the Royals’ defensive shift.
Paul Konerko and Conor Gillapsie, who had a career-high three hits, then singled to load the bases for Viciedo. Viciedo hit a 1-0 slider from Guthrie 406 feet to left-center for a homer to make it 5-0.
The White Sox finished with 13 hits.
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Viciedo had three hits in four at-bats and also flew out deep to right.
“Tank swung it great tonight,” Ventura said. “I don’t know if we’ve seen him swing it like this. It’s nice to see. … He’s hitting to all fields. That’s as good as you can see him.”
The White Sox bullpen had twice before blown one-run leads for Rienzo but not on Wednesday.
Donnie Veal, Matt Lindstrom, Nate Jones and Addison Reed combined for three scoreless innings to secure the victory.
Afterward, Rienzo said he had received the game ball from Ventura for his efforts. Asked about his plans for the ball, Rienzo was quick to answer.
“Take it,” Rienzo said with a smile. “It’s mine forever.”