After all, the South Siders held a three-run lead with two outs and nobody on base in the eighth inning, looking like an all-but-certain victory with closer Bobby Jenks warming up in the bullpen.
Jenks actually worked a perfect eight-pitch ninth in a light rain to record his 25th save during the White Sox 8-7 win before the eighth sellout of the year at U.S. Cellular Field. But a misstep by Scott Linebrink in that eighth inning led to Jenks protecting a one-run lead instead of a three-run advantage.
Linebrink (3-5) issued walks to Mark Teahen and Mitch Maier with two outs, not really coming close to the plate on the at-bat against Maier. Left-handed slugger Mike Jacobs came off the bench and hit the next pitch 391 feet for his 16th home run of the season.
Suddenly, a 7-4 lead with plenty of breathing room had turned into a 7-7 deadlock, getting a little tight around the collar for the White Sox.
"But they did what good teams do," said Jacobs of the White Sox. "Once that happened, the momentum shifted right to us. They did a great job of not putting their heads down, and they went right back out like good teams do and scored a quick run."
Scott Podsednik, who has a knack this season for delivering the big hit, came through as Jacobs pointed out in the bottom half of the eighth. Alex Rios opened the frame by drawing a walk off reliever Roman Colon (1-3) and moved to second on Alexei Ramirez's sacrifice.
One out later, Podsednik lined a single up the middle off left-handed reliever John Bale, which was fielded by center fielder Josh Anderson about seven or eight steps behind second. Anderson bobbled the base hit momentarily, allowing the fleet-footed Rios to slide home safely in front of the throw.
Rios made his home debut a triumphant one with two hits, helping the White Sox (61-58) move within two games of the idle first-place Tigers. But he had no idea how close Anderson was when fielding Podsednik's second hit and what turned into his second run scored of the contest.
"I knew I had to get going," Rios said. "I got there on time."
"Little by little, Rios is going to make contributions to this ballclub," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I told him, 'You didn't come here to change this, just to help us to win.'"
Linebrink's late struggles mean Mark Buehrle will have to wait until Sunday's matchup with the Orioles to break his post-perfect game winless streak. The ace lefty has not won since hurling the 18th perfect game in Major League history on July 23 against Tampa Bay, posting an 0-3 record and 5.85 ERA with 43 hits allowed in 32 1/3 innings.
Against the Royals (46-72), Buehrle yielded four runs on nine hits over six innings, walking two without striking out a batter. He benefited from three double plays turned behind him, but none was bigger than the one he started to end the fourth.
Teahen's one-out single in the fourth was followed by a fly ball hit by Maier to right-center, which Jermaine Dye looked to have in his sights. But there was a communication breakdown between Dye and Rios, allowing the ball to fall for a double. Yuniesky Betancourt, who homered during a three-run second, drew a walk to load the bases, but Anderson's grounder back to the mound allowed Buehrle to escape unscathed, from the pitcher to catcher A.J. Pierzynski to first baseman Paul Konerko.
Kansas City put at least one runner on base in every inning against Buehrle, aside from a perfect first.
"Buehrle struggled almost every inning and was in a lot of trouble all game," said Guillen of the southpaw, who threw 62 of his 96 pitches for strikes. "But that's him. When he's in trouble, he puts the ball in play and the double play is his best friend."
Jayson Nix (No. 10) and Pierzynski (No. 13) both launched two-run home runs off Kansas City starter Brian Bannister, while Dye reached base four times on two singles and two walks. It was Pierzynski's shot with two outs in the seventh that seemed to put the White Sox in complete control with a three-run lead, but Linebrink's two-out lapse gave the game a little unwanted extra theatrics on the White Sox side.
Over his past 12 games, covering 10 2/3 innings, Linebrink has allowed 10 runs on nine walks and 15 hits. But the White Sox aren't giving up on their talented setup man, just as they didn't flinch on Monday after the Royals rallied against Linebrink in the eighth.
"He'll be fine," said Pierzynski. "We have all the confidence in the world in him. If we have a lead in the eighth inning [on Tuesday], he'll be out there again."
"After that inning, when Liner give up the home run, I didn't see anyone over there with long faces," Guillen said. "Only Liner was disappointed, but everyone was cheering and saying, 'Don't let this bother anybody.' That's a good sign about this ballclub, because to take away a game like that can hurt a ballclub."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less