White Sox walk away with win against Angels
Keppinger's first pass in 140 plate appearances scores game-winner
ANAHEIM -- Jeff Keppinger walked up to his locker following a postgame workout at Angel Stadium on Thursday night and noticed a group of media members waiting to chat.
The White Sox second baseman played an integral role in the team's 5-4 come-from-behind victory before 37,711, so it stood to reason that he would serve as a primary interview subject. But with a broad smile across his face, Keppinger made one request before the talk began.
"Please don't ask about the walk," Keppinger quipped.
It was hard to avoid the topic considering Keppinger's first walk of the season couldn't have come at a better time. He broke a streak of 140 plate appearances without a free pass by drawing a four-pitch walk from Angels reliever Michael Kohn that forced home the go-ahead run during the South Siders' third straight win on their seven-game road trip, and moved the team just four games behind the American League Central-leading Tigers.
Kohn lost a seven-pitch battle with Conor Gillaspie that ended in a free pass with Adam Dunn on second, but Keppinger was taking all the way after Kohn walked Dayan Viciedo on five pitches to load the bases. The Angels right-hander wasn't remotely close to Keppinger.
"Once he walked those two guys in front of me, I was probably going to take two strikes, make him get his rhythm back and start pounding the zone," Keppinger said. "After he walked Conor, he couldn't find his arm slot or something. We didn't chase anything bad or put a bad ball in play, so it worked out for us."
"Just an off night," said Kohn, who threw 12 of his final 14 pitches out of the strike zone. "My job is to come in and keep those guys off base and unfortunately tonight I didn't do that. Just chalk it up as a bad night."
Trailing 4-2 in the eighth, Alejandro De Aza started the three-run rally with a single off Dane De La Rosa (1-1). Alexei Ramirez followed with a single to right-center, and when Mike Trout made an ill-advised throw to try to get De Aza at third, Ramirez moved into second as the tying run.
De Aza scored from third on a wild pitch on Alex Rios' strikeout, and Dunn singled home Ramirez through a drawn-in infield. Dunn was the last hitter De La Rosa faced, with Kohn entering and retiring Paul Konerko on a slow roller back to the mound for the second out. Then the strike zone disappeared for the reliever, and the White Sox (18-21) didn't offer up any help.
"Do you just take one down the middle or do you chance it?" said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of going against Kohn's wildness. "You have to make sure you are swinging at something that's in the middle of the plate and Kep did a good job of just not trying to do anything extra special."
"We had some great at-bats," said Dunn, who is 6-for-15 with six RBIs on the road trip. "Pitches that were close, we were able to lay off of them for the most part and were able to string together eight or nine really good at-bats."
With the game tied at 2 in the sixth inning, and with Mark Trumbo on base via a walk and Josh Hamilton having reached with a single, Howie Kendrick connected on a line shot to left that even sounded good off the bat on a 1-1 pitch. Viciedo did not get a good read or take a good route on the baseball, and the shot hit off Viciedo's glove for what was ruled a two-run double and a temporary lead for the Angels (15-26).
That miscue, along with De Aza getting doubled off first base on a fourth-inning Ramirez liner and Rios failing to run on that wild pitch third strike in the eighth, left Thursday somewhat short of a perfect effort for the White Sox. The offense also was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position over the first seven innings.
Angels starter Jerome Williams allowed two runs over six-plus innings, striking out three and giving up Rios' ninth homer with two outs in the fourth, extending Rios' hitting streak to 11 straight. Williams was pulled by Mike Scioscia after just 74 pitches.
Rios did the job with his arm in the third when he threw out Chris Iannetta at the plate on Erick Aybar's single to right. The game stayed scoreless until Rios went deep in the fourth and Albert Pujols followed with a two-run shot in the bottom half of the frame after a leadoff walk to Trout.
Left-hander Jose Quintana gave up four runs over 6 2/3 innings after setting down the first seven, fanning four and walking three in 111 pitches. Matt Lindstrom (2-2) earned the victory, with Addison Reed channeling his hero Troy Percival for save No. 13 and his first recorded at the home of his favorite boyhood team.
These sum total of the parts brought the White Sox as close to first as they've been since the start of the month. Sure, it's just 39 games into the season. And yes, the White Sox remain in last place in the division.
But the team is building momentum and happy to be this close after six weeks of less-than-stellar baseball.
"To come back and just keep grinding away, I liked the way the offense battled," Ventura said. "We are going to have to do that."
"We're never going to give up, no matter what the score is," Reed said. "Breaks are going to start falling our way and we're going to start playing some good ball."