Duke, Avila escape ninth unscathed

Reliever, catcher get White Sox out of bases-loaded situation

Duke, Avila escape ninth unscathed

BOSTON -- White Sox left-hander Zach Duke entered Monday's 3-1 victory over the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded, nobody out, and the game tied at 1.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura had only four words to say to Duke as he handed him the ball: "No outs, good luck."

For just the second time this season, the White Sox went with five infielders, the first coming in Sunday's walk-off loss to the Indians. For the second day in a row, there was no margin for error. Anything hit out of the infield likely would allow the go-ahead run to score.

First up was pinch-hitter Dustin Pedroia, who swung through a 92-mph fastball for the first out.

Then came the biggest out of the inning. Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez hit a grounder to fifth infielder Tyler Saladino, who made an off-balance throw to home plate. Chicago catcher Alex Avila extended his body forward to snag the low throw while managing to keep his foot on the plate for the second out.

Avila's clutch pick at home

"It puts a little more pressure on them to try and get it in the air when you have that many guys [in the infield]," Ventura said. "The Vazquez ball is probably one that scoots up the middle if everybody's in and you only have four guys in there. So it worked out for us today."

"Unreal," Duke said. "That was an unreal play. I don't know how he caught that ball. I had a perfect view of it. Soon as it left [Saladino's] hand, I was going, 'Nooo!' But then he came up with it. And I just said from that point on, I'm going to get this next guy."

Duke then went to work on Ryan LaMarre, striking him out with an 81-mph slider to escape the jam.

When Jose Abreu hit a two-run double off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel in the top of the 10th, it put Duke in line for the well-deserved win. It was the 10th scoreless outing in the last 11 appearances for Duke, who has has made 28 scoreless appearances this season.

"I get more nervous watching the game than I do when I'm pitching," said Miguel Gonzalez, who allowed just four hits, two walks, six strikeouts and one run over 6 2/3 innings. "It was pretty exciting to watch Dukey get those three outs. Can't ask for more."

Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.