KANSAS CITY -- The White Sox biggest bats haven’t carried the team on a run yet this season.
Jesse Crain has.
The reliever pitched out of a White Sox-created mess late on Saturday afternoon and the offense scratched across a ninth-inning run in a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals in front of 20,364 at Kauffman Stadium.
Alejandro De Aza’s sacrifice fly to right with one out in the ninth scored pinch-runner Jordan Danks as the White Sox clinched a series victory with their second straight win.
Crain (2-1) pitched out of a runner-on-third, one-out jam to secure only the team’s seventh win in 24 tries. The victory came on the heels of a blowout victory Friday that Crain hopes can change the White Sox fortunes.
“No matter what the situation is, take one batter, one pitch at a time,” Crain said. “I always have the feeling I’m going to get through it, no matter what.”
The situation seemed harrier than most.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Crain got Eric Hosmer to hit a routine fly ball to right-center for what looked like an easy out. Alex Rios started to settle under the ball with ease but had to back off and the ball dropped in as De Aza raced over from center field.
After the game, De Aza said he called off Rios early and was at fault.
Crain made sure the gaffe didn’t matter.
He retired Salvador Perez on a pop out to second base and after a walk to Billy Butler, ended the inning with a strikeout of Lorenzo Cain to keep the score tied at 2.
“He’s had some other ones just like it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s just been tough with guys in scoring position. He’s not afraid to throw anything. It makes him tougher. He’s had a couple like that, not his own doing but our doing.”
The scoreless frame extended Crain’s streak to 29 games and 29 innings. Crain has struck out 38 batters during the streak.
He last allowed a run April 12.
“I faced [Cain] a lot,” Crain said. “I wanted to throw him something that wasn’t going to get hit on. For me, no matter what strength the hitter has, I’m going to use my strengths, and I feel I have three and sometimes four in my fastball, slider and curve. And if I make the pitch I want to make with either three of those, I’m confident in every one I throw.”
Ventura’s confidence in his hitters paid off in the top of the ninth inning. After Dayan Viciedo singled and Jeff Keppinger -- who reached base in all four plate appearances and had an RBI -- walked against Aaron Crow (3-3), Ventura trusted pinch-hitter Gordon Beckham to move the runner over against reliever Greg Holland without a bunt. Beckham flew out to deep right-center, enough for pinch runner Jordan Danks to advance to third. De Aza then worked the count full before he hit a fly deep enough for Danks to slide in ahead of Jeff Francouer’s throw from right field.
The White Sox grabbed a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning behind RBI singles from Conor Gillaspie and Keppinger.
“It seems like we’re always on the losing end of one-run games,” Keppinger said. “To fundamentally get a sac fly to get the go-ahead run is a pretty good feeling. Hopefully we keep going and build off it.”
The win secured the White Sox first series victory since they swept the Miami Marlins from May 24-26. The team reached .500 with the final win of the series and has slumped since.
Crain has not.
Since May 26, Crain has pitched 10 2/3 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts.
“We need to win as many games as we can,” Crain said. “We obviously have a real bad streak, and to win these two games on the road, against a team that has played us tough and a good team, they’re big wins. Hopefully we can keep this going.”