Four Chicago homers help rookie to third straight win
Johnson caps debut season with victory after taking no-hit bid into fifth
CHICAGO -- Erik Johnson finished off the achievement of his primary 2013 goal with the White Sox 6-5 victory against the Royals on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
And that goal was not to pick up his third straight victory, which he did, or to help the White Sox avoid 100 losses, which they guaranteed by virtue of their four homers behind Johnson's mound work.
In reality, Johnson (3-2) reached his goal in early September and just worked toward his future over the past three weeks.
"My goal was to get here," said Johnson, who became the first White Sox rookie to win three consecutive starts since John Danks in 2007. "But now my goal is to stay here."
Johnson held the Royals (85-76) hitless for 4 1/3 innings, before Mike Moustakas connected on a solo homer to right. The right-hander allowed two more runs in the sixth, courtesy of Billy Butler's two-run shot after Eric Hosmer's single.
Johnson's fifth and final big league start of his rookie campaign finished with three earned runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings, with Johnson fanning four and walking three. On the heels of his breakout performance for both Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, Johnson performed quite well over 27 2/3 innings with the White Sox (63-98) and finished with a 3.25 ERA.
"I looked at it as a learning process," said Johnson, who threw 61 of his 93 pitches for strikes. "As much as I could learn from [pitching coach Don Cooper, manager Robin Ventura], anyone in this clubhouse. Going out there on the mound and competing I was learning a lot too. I thought overall it was a good experience and a great opportunity for me."
"He was good. Kind of mixing it up. I thought his ball had a little life early," Ventura said. "Maybe not so much fifth and sixth inning, when they got to him. Again, the way it has been going for us, it's a tough game to win, but he has given us every opportunity to do it, which is impressive for a kid that has come up in September."
Marcus Semien gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead in the second, when he connected off Royals starter Yordano Ventura (0-1) for his second career home run. Jordan Danks followed with an opposite field shot to left.
Adam Dunn produced home run No. 3, his 34th this season, by going deep in the third with two outs after Gordon Beckham's single. And Conor Gillaspie completed the White Sox power outburst with a two-run blast in the seventh off left-handed reliever Tim Collins.
"Left-on-left --- look at the numbers. Gillaspie's hitting .153 against lefties and Tim's been really good out of the 'pen for us," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "The pitch wasn't horrible. The pitch was down. He tried to hit the corner. and it came back toward the middle a little bit."
"It's good to get a win in front of a good crowd too. It's a great feeling," said Semien, who broke an 0-for-14 funk with three hits. "I'm proud of Erik for getting another win under his belt. Just happy with how we battled."
Charlie Leesman and Daniel Webb combined to throw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out three in the process. The Royals scored two in the eighth on Salvador Perez's two-run homer off Matt Lindstrom, but that's as close as they got.
With the way the season has gone, getting win No. 63 and avoiding 100 losses certainly wasn't going to be easy. Finishing with 98 or 99 defeats clearly didn't put Ventura any more at ease with this disappointing showing.
"People might make a big deal about 100," Ventura said. "But it's not going to make me feel any better going into the offseason knowing the work that's got to go into next year."
On a night when White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto was relieved of his duties, the South Siders produced four homers among their nine hits.
"To be honest with you, at this level, there are a few things hitting coaches say or do differently," Dunn said. "For the most part, you are what you are by the time you're up here. All you can ask for is a guy that is in there every single day watching your swing and knowing your swing. He's got 15 guys' swings to know. He did a great job in my opinion."