With two outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning, closer Bobby Jenks fired a fastball behind the backside of Texas leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler. Both teams were warned by home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale, with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen quickly jumping out of the dugout to get an explanation.
After all, two more White Sox hit batsmen on Saturday brought their grand total to six over the past four games played against the Rangers (16-14). Even if none of those were perceived as intentional, as the White Sox have stated during the past two weekends, the hurlers decided it was time to take a stand for their hitters.
And what was Jenks' reaction to Barksdale's words of admonishment?
"He said, 'Warning,' and I said, 'Great, give me the ball,'" said a smiling Jenks, drawing a round of laughter from the media gathered around his locker. "You know, we've got another out to get.
"It was not intentional. Yeah, I wanted to go in and send a message, and I think that message was sent. Our guys have been hit a lot this series. With a one-run lead, I didn't want to put anyone on base. I just wanted to say, 'Hey, we can play that game, too.' Other than that, the important thing was getting him out after that pitch."
Jenks finished off that mission, retiring the dangerous Kinsler on a popup to second baseman Chris Getz. Jenks' seventh save in seven opportunities helped the White Sox (14-15) improve to 4-4 in one-run games and made a winner of Scott Linebrink (1-1), who stranded two runners during a scoreless eighth inning.
This victory certainly was not a thing of beauty, especially where the offense was concerned. But the White Sox fought hard until they pushed across the deciding run in their half of the eighth, ending up on the right side of the final score for just the second time in seven games.
The game was tied, 2-2, when the White Sox loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth against Rangers starter Kevin Millwood (3-3). Paul Konerko's sacrifice fly brought home Carlos Quentin with the game-winner, in what was a consummate at-bat by a run producer trying to fight off the sidearm offerings from reliever Darren O'Day.
O'Day offered up a 3-2 slider to Konerko, the first slider Konerko had viewed in this important at-bat, but Konerko got it in the air. Quentin's hard slide beat Marlon Byrd's throw to the plate by a few feet.
"Yeah, it was dogfight against a guy like that, but it always is against a sidewinder -- it never is a comfortable at-bat," Konerko said. "I was just trying to see the ball and hit it. It wasn't like I hit it deep to the track. Carlos got a good jump off third and went in hard at the plate, which also helped."
"Every time we lost, we lost very, very ugly -- but when we win, we win pretty good games," Guillen said. "That's why I can't figure out this ballclub yet. When we've got close games and we've got good starting pitching, we play well. All of a sudden when things blow out of proportion, then we don't look too good."
John Danks didn't get the win on Saturday, but he certainly provided outstanding starting pitching, as Guillen suggested. The southpaw set a career high with 10 strikeouts, giving up just one run on four hits and one walk over six innings.
Despite working with an extra day's rest, following Wednesday's postponement, and getting another extra day before his next start due to Thursday's off-day, Danks was pulled after 98 pitches. It was still a major step forward for Danks, who had posted an 8.68 ERA over his previous two starts after fastening a 0.95 ERA in his first three starts of the season.
"I'm definitely happy to give us a chance to win," said Danks, who threw 67 of his pitches for strikes. "I actually felt pretty good, but the thing is, I felt good in all of my outings, and my last two didn't go as I totally expected. To keep us in the game against a tough lineup and get a hard-fought win, for sure, that's great."
"Danks was good, and we needed a good game from him," Guillen said. "Every time this kid goes out there, we know we're going to have a chance."
There also wasn't any shyness on Danks' part when asked about the situation of Jenks' apparent purpose pitch in the ninth. Danks agreed with the White Sox closer in regard to the protection of their hitters and added that "if someone's feelings get hurt, too bad."
"We are trying to send a message that we are not going to just let people hit us the whole time," Danks added. "We are going to play as a team, and part of that is making sure the other pitcher knows you can't throw at us. If something needs to happen, we'll do it."
Just not in the ninth inning, protecting a one-run lead, with a prolific base stealer at the plate in Kinsler, according to Guillen.
"If we hit that kid in that particular at-bat and that guy scores, I think I should be the worst manager in the game," said Guillen with a laugh. "And the way we're playing right now, I don't think we should be hitting people in the ninth. I do really understand [Barksdale] has to control the game, but I'm not that crazy."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less