From the instant the ball left his bat, Omar Narvaez’s biggest concern was more about reaching first base rather than about where the ball actually landed.
Narvaez figured if his bases-loaded blooper down the left field line drifted foul, his bases-loaded at-bat would continue.
If it landed fair, Narvaez knew the U.S. Cellular Field crowd of 28,491 that had risen to its feet throughout the White Sox catcher’s seventh-inning at-bat would let him know.
But when third base umpire Mike Winters ruled Narvaez’s hit that grazed off the glove of Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado landed in foul territory, Sox manager Robin Ventura knew he had no option but to challenge the ruling.
“That’s a game-changer,” Ventura said.
Turns out, it was.
Video review overturned the call and showed Narvaez’s single kicked up chalk on the foul line. That gave the Sox the lift they needed before Adam Eaton’s solo home run in the eighth inning finished off a 4-2 win over the Orioles Saturday night.
“Whatever they called it, I was fine,” Narvaez said of the overturned call. “I was ready to get another pitch.”
Narvaez’s go-ahead single came long after Sox starter Carlos Rodon was as effective as he has been all season. Yet, despite working six innings when he allowed only five hits, struck out seven and retired 10 straight hitters at one point, the outing wasn’t enough to bring Rodon’s winless streak to an end.
But the bigger win may have come in the quality of the start.
After the Orioles put runners on first and third with nobody out in the first inning, Rodon struck out Machado, Mark Trumbo and Steve Pearce to escape unscathed. As he walked off the mound, Rodon allowed some pent-up emotion to escape. In that moment, he understood what how important surviving that gauntlet was in what would be a tight-knit game the rest of the way through.
“You see those guys step in the box – one through nine – any of those guys can hurt you,” said Rodon, who hit 100 mph with one his pitches in the first inning. “That was the mindset. The whole time I had to go full bore at them.”
Rodon didn’t back off, showcasing his fiery side when he needed to and settling in and executing pitches when it mattered most.
“He has (the fire) – he always has it,” Ventura said. “Sometimes, it’s directed at a water cooler, but he has it.
“He has great stuff. He has the fire and everything that’s in there. You’re just hoping that that gets directed toward home plate and he can throw strikes like that. He had some adrenaline going.”
Pitching behind a 2-0 cushion provided by a Melky Cabrera RBI double and a Tyler Saladino solo home run, Rodon didn’t allow a run until the fourth inning. J.J. Hardy’s two-out RBI double cut the Sox’ lead to 2-1. Rodon gave up an unearned run that tied the game in the sixth when Hardy’s sacrifice fly scored Trumbo following a Tim Anderson error.
But relievers Jacob Turner, Nate Jones (5-2) and closer David Robertson (27th save) kept the Orioles from scoring again.
The Sox loaded the bases in the seventh on singles by Justin Morneau, Todd Frazier and Avisail Garcia. That brought up Narvaez, whose came through with the big hit when the Sox needed it most after they left the bases loaded without adding to their lead.
The video review made sure it stuck.
“There’s always close calls late in the ballgame, where review has either helped us or hurt us,” Eaton said. “But video replay prevailed and we’re happy with it.”
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