With the White Sox holding a 2-1 lead and Leury Garcia on second and Tim Anderson on first, Saladino pushed a 2-2 pitch toward third baseman Mike Moustakas to advance both runners. Melky Cabrera followed with a two-run single off of Royals starter Jason Vargas, giving the White Sox a commanding three-run advantage against the struggling Kansas City offense.
Getting the call for a two-strike bunt ranks as a surprising new responsibility for the White Sox second baseman.
"Yeah, that was a first for me," Saladino said. "Maybe a couple of times back in the Minors, that's how we would usually do it. But weirdly enough, I didn't feel as much pressure. Just focusing on getting it down and over toward the third baseman."
"At that point in time we just want to score runs. That's what we were thinking about," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "He did a great job with two strikes to put the ball down on the proper side of the field, because [first baseman Eric Hosmer] was [playing way in]."
Simply making contact for Saladino became equally important on an individual level.
His four strikeouts to close out Sunday's victory over the Indians and strikeouts in the first and third inning against Vargas gave Saladino a string of six straight punchouts. Going 0-for-6 would seem to count the same whether it's the strikeouts or three popouts and three ground balls, but not the way Saladino views the situation.
"It's frustrating as can be; drive myself crazy," said Saladino of the strikeouts. "That's not something that I should be doing, striking out that much, and it's pretty dang frustrating.
"Chasing a few pitches and then you have a strike or two on you. Most of these guys have some pretty good pitches, especially with two strikes. I'm kind of putting myself in some holes there. It's just a matter of putting a better pass on the pitches you need to be doing that on."
Saladino tripled home two runs during an eight-run sixth but then struck out again in his final at-bat. Even without the uplifting feeling produced by the bunt or the big hit to continue the rally, the second baseman understands his glove work behind a dominant effort such as the one turned in by Miguel Gonzalez Monday is just as important.
"I just try to put everything else aside and focus on what's going on, because you have a guy up on the mound that's pitching his tail off," Saladino said. "So when I get back out on defense, it's just as important, if not more. Put that stuff aside for the time being. Go all out on defense."