It's really not a game against the Royals without needless difficulty, some stretches where basic elements of baseball seem impossible, or a seemingly comfortable win randomly peppered with intense moments.
But those were extra dressings on successful elements.
The White Sox came into the game with two years of emotional baggage built up against Bruce Chen--a strike-throwing soft-tosser who needs to have his fly-ball tendencies punished for home runs. Sox bats piled five runs on him, with home runs from Dayan Viciedo, Paul Konerko, and spot-starting Tyler Flowers, and a pair of sharp doubles from Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez.
They also came into the game with the typical anxiety about Chris Sale's status, and after striking out the leadoff batter, Sale stoked those fires plenty early on. He was sitting in the low 90's, he was falling behind hitters with regularity, and while his slider was keeping hitters off-balance, it lacked the bite to get putaway strikeouts.
Things came to a head in a marathon 3rd inning. Sale threw 29 pitches in the frame, slogged through a seven-pitch at-bat with Alex Gordon for a strikeout to give him two outs with runners on 1st and 2nd. Of course, Billy Butler sprayed a line-drive to right field that Rios fielded on a short hop, who fired throw home in time to beat Lorenzo Cain.
Beating Cain wasn't enough to get an out call some reason, and at the time the run tied the game. That bit of bad luck would be paid back later on, and Sale would recover to make that the only mark against him. In fact, he wouldn't allow another batter to reach base over six innings, and would strike out four over his final three frames.
It made for a smooth afternoon right up until the 8th. Brett Myers had nothing, allowed three crisp line-drive hits to start the inning, and only got an out when Lorenzo Cain needlessly tried to score from 1st and was cut down by an all-Cuban relay.
Addison Reed came on for the 9th, and despite his shaky reputation, was good as gold while getting the first two outs in a row, and inducing a soft liner to left to end the game....
...only Jordan Danks completely whiffed on it. After that double that was somehow not ruled an error, Reed allowed RBI singles (and subsequent pinch-runner stolen bases) to Brayan Pena and Johnny Giovatella, before striking out last night's villain, Lorenzo Cain, to end the anxiety.
White Sox 5, Royals 4
Chris Sale - 6 IP, 5 H, ER, BB, 6 K, 0 HR, 101 pitches - As shaky as he was in portions, the effectiveness he flashed in the later innings was very encouraging
Dayan Viciedo - 2 for 4, HR, - For the second-straight night, a miscast #3 hitter played the part pretty darn well.
Paul Konerko - 1 for 3, HR, BB - A productive night, wrapped around a lot of runner stranding.
Tyler Flowers - 1 for 2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, K - Well, look at you, productive-hitting Tyler Flowers!
Gordon Beckham - 1 for 3, 2B, BB, 2 K - Well look at you, taking walks and jump-starting rallies Gordon Beckham!
Matt Thornton - 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K - Bookmark this one, and remember it.
Reed didn't have a whole heck of a lot in the way of off-speed stuff, and his velocity was fading near the end of the 9th, but he was still able to pump fastballs by Lorenzo Cain to strand the speedy Jerome Dyson at 2nd base and end the game. Things were very much in doubt until then.
Things Would Be Different If...
Far be it for me to complain about a five-run effort against Bruce Chen, but the Sox only went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position, and only one of those hits drew water. The 7th inning loomed large, as the bases were loaded against the thoroughly maligned Vin Mazzaro, only for a Paul Konerko popout and an Alex Rios groundout to leave them stranded.
The Sox bullpen had more than enough room to work with, but there might have been a Philip Humber appearance if they could have broken open some more opportunities.
A win is a win is a win is a win in September, but especially if it features a functional Sale, a toppling of Bruce Chen and overcomes the entire top-third of the order being absent.
I've somewhat conceded any dreams of an aesthetically pleasing victory against the Royals, I suggest you all do the same.
Team Record: 75-63, 1.5 game up with Tigers losing at time of posting