Avisail Garcia knew he needed to fire a strike from right field to home plate with the game on the line.
But something went wrong. The 6-4, 240-pounder stumbled as he fielded the ball and prepared to throw.
“Obviously, when he slipped, we took a little gasp,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said.
Moments later, the Sox breathed a big sigh of relief. Garcia steadied himself and threw out Whit Merrifield at home plate, which set off a wild 9-2-4-6 double play to end the game and preserve a 7-6 win over the Royals on Friday night.
The win pushed the Sox (62-91) past the Tigers (62-92) and out of last place in the AL Central.
“We have to try to win the nine games we have left,” said Garcia, who gunned down two runners at the plate during the game. “Everybody says we never give up. We just have to give everything every day.”
Winning pitcher Reynaldo Lopez (3-3) watched the game-ending double play on a flat-screen monitor inside the Sox’ clubhouse, celebrating as he watched his teammates catch Royals speedster Lorenzo Cain between first and second base for the final out.
“That second, I was jumping up, and my heart was beating so hard,” Lopez said through an interpreter. “I was happy and excited. It was an exciting end of the game.”
He joked that Garcia fell down “because he has a big head.”
Lopez, 23, made the win possible by overcoming an error-filled, six-run third. He kept his composure and finished with his fifth quality start in his last seven outings, giving up six runs (two earned) and 10 hits in 6⅓ innings.
The young trio of Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer has combined for 10 quality starts in their last 13 outings.
“Our starting pitching, the kids that we’ve brought up, have done a very nice job,” Renteria said. “They’ve adapted, they continue to learn, they get better. It’s certainly a short snippet of what they are, but we can be very optimistic about what’s going to be happening here moving forward.”
A fielding error by Yoan Moncada and a throwing error by Tim Anderson set the stage for the Royals’ big inning.
“In baseball, those mistakes are going to happen,” Lopez said, “and when those mistakes happen, you have to keep your focus on what you are doing and executing your pitches, because you know your teammates are also trying to do their best. That was the key for me.”
The Sox responded with five runs in the fourth to regain a one-run lead. Matt Davidson and Moncada each hit a two-run homer, the second of which chased Royals starter Jason Hammel after 3⅓ innings.
Anderson extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games with an RBI single in the fourth. He’s hitting .421 (24-for-57) with three doubles, two homers and seven RBI during his late-season outburst.
“I’m very happy with how it’s ending,” Anderson said.
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