As the old saying goes, if it weren't for bad luck for Kotsay, hitting-wise, he would pretty much have none at all. During Friday's 5-3 victory over the Rangers in front of 30,193 spectators at the Ballpark in Arlington, the South Siders' hard-luck hitter became the team's big-game winner.
After seeing four fastballs between 96 and 98 mph from Texas closer Neftali Feliz (1-2), Kotsay drove a 97-mph heater into left-center for a two-out, two-strike double to break a 3-3 tie by scoring pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge and Carlos Quentin. The opposite-field shot felt good for Kotsay, although he had to wait for a split-second to see if the line drive would get down before left fielder Josh Hamilton could make the catch.
"It felt great once the ball landed. Normally, I'm used to someone making a diving play and not getting the reward for grinding an at-bat out," Kotsay said. "Obviously, in that situation, you would like to come through for your club."
"I was glad for him. Everyone was," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "I was glad for him to come up with the bit hit. We all know how well he has been swinging the bat."
Kotsay's double, the only extra-base hit among 14 for the White Sox (41-37), helped setup man J.J. Putz (5-2) earn his fifth consecutive win after Matt Thornton struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth for his fourth save. It also served as the culmination of a late White Sox rally, keeping the team within two games of American League Central-leading Minnesota and within one game of second-place Detroit.
Trailing, 3-1, in the seventh, the White Sox singled their way even against Texas starter Colby Lewis and reliever Alexi Ogando. Gordon Beckham lined a base hit slightly over the outstretched glove of shortstop Elvis Andrus, and Juan Pierre's third hit of the game barely eluded first baseman Justin Smoak. One out later, Alex Rios singled up the middle to score Beckham and send Pierre to third, with Paul Konerko's sacrifice fly to center leveling the score at three.
"We take advantage when we have people on base," Guillen said. "That's the way we are going to have to play. We also had clutch hitting. That's what we were missing in Kansas City."
"[Lewis] threw the first-pitch breaking ball to Beckham and he just happened to get it out of Elvis' reach," said Texas manager Ron Washington of the White Sox rally against Lewis, who allowed three runs on eight hits over six-plus innings. "From that point on, Pierre pulled one through the hole at first base, and Rios got the ball up the middle. They executed."
Texas (47-32) built its 3-1 lead against White Sox starter Freddy Garcia on the strength of Vladimir Guerrero's two-out, two-run triple in the third and Josh Hamilton's mammoth home run to right-center leading off the sixth. Garcia posted his 11th quality start of the season, yielding three runs on six hits over six innings, striking out three and walking two.
Standing as the team's fifth starter but also its most consistent member of the rotation during the first half, Garcia holds a 7-1 record in nine starts immediately following White Sox losses this season. That personal ledger didn't improve on Friday, but Garcia was solely concerned with the team's result.
"Like I said before, it's all about winning," Garcia said. "We won tonight, it's all good. Pitching six innings with this lineup? Not bad."
"They only scored three," said White Sox catcher Ramon Castro, one of four White Sox starters with at least two hits, joining Rios, Pierre and Alexei Ramirez, who had three apiece. "We make a mistake and threw a split, and it was hanging, and Hamilton hit it out. With Vlady, Freddy threw a good split, and I don't know how he hit it. But we battled and came back."
Friday's contest looked in jeopardy from the get-go, as a torrential downpour delayed the start for 2 hours, 25 minutes, with the first pitch coming at 9:30 p.m. CT. Guillen quipped during the delay that he would wait to 3 a.m. to play this particular contest, in order to avoid a Sunday doubleheader.
Guillen and the White Sox actually got lucky. The final pitch was thrown at 12:27 a.m. on Saturday morning.
This win evened up the White Sox road trip at 2-2, after they lost two of three games in Kansas City. The comeback also helped the White Sox avoid slipping into a 1-4 funk after their 11-game win streak came to an end on Sunday against the Cubs.
Since June 9, the Rangers (47-32) have a 16-4 record and have taken control of the AL West during that stretch. The White Sox matched 16-4 records with the Rangers as Baseball's hottest teams, and through a solid overall effort on Friday, proved to be a little better in the series opener.
"Our team is playing well, too," Castro said. "We have a good thing going. Just take one day at a time and take care of business."
"That was a continuation of the other night, when we were down, 7-1, and made a game of it," said Kotsay, referring to the White Sox eighth-inning rally against Zack Greinke on Wednesday, a 7-6 loss. "We showed some good character through the winning streak and over the last couple of games, when things haven't gone our way, we still showed character and fight to the last out. That's big."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.