The way the Sox are playing right now, though, the only way they could
play any better is if they won the rest of their games -- all 146 of
them. Even that might not be such a stretch, though.
The White Sox's latest victory was their second in extra innings and
their eighth by just a single run. And that 8-1 record in one-run games
means the South Siders have won more games by one run than nine other
Major League teams have won, period. But for a while Saturday night,
the Royals made them sweat. Yes, the Royals, with just five wins in 13 games to
start the season, made baseball's best team squirm.
You can thank the Royals' pitchers for that. They matched the White
Sox's five pitchers -- Jose Contreras, Cliff Politte, Neal Cotts, Luis
Vizcaino and Damaso Marte -- pitch for pitch, until the top of the 10th.
At that point, Royals right-hander Mike MacDougal allowed A.J.
Pierzynski to reach on a fielder's choice and advance to third on Juan
Uribe's single. With two outs and runners at the corners, MacDougal
seemed to tighten up against the next batter, Aaron Rowand, who hadn't
started the game, but entered in the eighth as a pinch-hitter for Ross Gload.
After firing a first-pitch ball to Rowand, MacDougal tossed him an
inside fastball, which Rowand slapped to right field. Pierzynski came
in to score, and the White Sox had a 3-2 lead.
The reason Rowand and the rest of the Sox performed so well, so late in
yet another close game?
"The more guys play those games, the more they get used to it," Rowand
said. "Guys don't press, they don't get in an uncomfortable position,
whereas you might if you don't play a lot of those close games."
That game-winning single was important, too, because Rowand had banged
out just two hits in his last 13 at-bats. His 10th-inning base hit
might have been enough to get him back on track.
"He's been struggling," Pierzynski said. "I was happy for Aaron. He
deserves the credit, and with MacDougal throwing the ball 95 miles per
hour, hopefully it got him going."
The White Sox got going early, scoring a run in each of the first two
innings. Outfielder Scott Podsednik singled in the first and scored on
catcher's interference, a balk and a grounder to first. Pierzynski
scored the next inning on Uribe's double after being hit by a pitch.
The Royals scored their runs in the first -- a leadoff homer by center
fielder David DeJesus -- and the eighth.
After scoring their second run,
the Royals seemed to have gained late momentum and, indeed, proceeded
to load the bases with one out in the ninth before a baserunning
blunder by Matt Diaz and a tough defensive play by Pierzynski
short-circuited the rally.
The only unfortunate news for the White Sox in the wake of another win
was the early exit of Contreras, who left after just 3 1/3 innings with
a strained lower right hamstring. There was nothing spectacular about
the injury, as it came during a routine groundout, but it was enough
to drag Contreras from what could have been his best start this
While on the hill, the right-hander allowed one run and just one hit,
walked one and struck out a season-high six. Before heading to the
dugout, he had retired 10 of the last 12 batters he faced.
"I felt real, real good," Contreras said through clubhouse interpreter
Joey Cora. "That's why I was upset about having to come out of the
game. Especially with the fastball, I was spotting that really well
tonight, in and out on the plate. I really want to win a game, and I
felt I had a good chance today."
Contreras said he would make his next start, though his manager wasn't
sure just yet.
"We don't know," Guillen said of the severity of Contreras' injury. "I
think he can walk, he can do a lot of different things, but when you
push him. ... Tomorrow, I'll have a better idea."
And tomorrow, maybe, the White Sox will have a better idea about
whether any other team can beat them.