It’s only one game, so let’s not pretend the 2013 White Sox have established any type of pattern yet.
New general manager Rick Hahn was sitting in the Sox’ dugout Monday at U.S. Cellular Field before the season opener against the Royals, and he laid out the plan for a successful 162-game run.
“From the beginning of the off-season, our goal was to put together a pitching staff and a defense that at least was going to keep us in games, especially in this ballpark, against anyone,” Hahn said.
And just like that, the White Sox went out and beat Kansas City 1-0 on the strength of pitching and defense.
Chris Sale was expectedly spectacular in his first opening-day start, working 7 innings and allowing 7 hits while striking out seven and walking one. The 24-year-old lefty was efficient as well, throwing 104 pitches while outdueling new K.C. ace James Shields.
“It was fun; it was exciting,” Sale said after combining with relievers Nate Jones, Matt Thornton and closer Addison Reed for the shutout. “It was everything I thought it would be and more.
“I thought I did a real good job of kind of collecting myself and not getting too amped up too early or too late, and it ended up being a pretty good day.”
Sox catcher Tyler Flowers — who decided the outcome with a solo home run leading off the fifth inning — was impressed by the way Sale stayed cool in a high-pressure start.
“The hitting and all that, that’s a bonus, and it happened today it was the 1 run we needed,” said Flowers, who is taking over for A.J. Pierzynski. “Getting Chris that quality start, especially to open up the season for him, his first opening-day start, I know he was pretty jacked up at the beginning.
“I was trying to keep him calm, and I was real pleased with how he threw all day.”
For as effectively as he navigated through the Royals’ potent lineup, Sale did run into trouble from time to time.
Thanks to a defense that committed the fewest errors (70) in the major leagues last season while tying Seattle for the best fielding percentage (.988), Sale emerged with a well-deserved win.
“We have to play defense,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Teams that don’t play good defense, you just keep giving them opportunities. For us, we can’t give opportunities. For us, I think pitching and defense are going to be key, and finding a way to score some runs. We have enough to score and do things offensively.
“But it always breaks your momentum if you’re not good at pitching and defense. It’s going to hurt you.”
The Sox turned 2 double plays behind Sale, and second baseman Gordon Beckham’s big play in the seventh inning likely saved the game for the Sox.
After Eric Hosmer led off the seventh with a single, Lorenzo Cain hit a line shot up the middle that looked like extra bases. Beckham dove to his right and made the catch, and the threat ended when Jeff Francoeur grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.
“I’m glad I made (the play),” Beckham said. “It’s a reaction play and all of the sudden it pops in your glove and you’ve either got it or you don’t. No telling, that’s either first and second or first and third with nobody out. It’s a good time to make that play.”
Said Sale: “That’s just Gordon. He’s a maniac over there. You almost come to expect that now. He’s just been so good, so solid, for so long. He definitely saved the game right there.”
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