BOSTON — If the Chicago White Sox end up winning the AL Central, Sunday’s victory may be a game that’s talked about as the key to their late-season run.
Gordon Beckham’s bases-loaded walk with two outs pushed Chicago ahead in a four-run ninth inning that lifted the White Sox to their sixth straight win and an improbable 7-5 comeback victory over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.
“It definitely feels like it’s one of those ones we snatched away,” Chicago’s Paul Konerko said.
The win completed a sweep of the three-game weekend series and came after Chicago trailed 5-3 entering the ninth inning and had two outs. The White Sox remained 3½ games behind Central-leading Minnesota, a 6-5 winner over Texas.
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (5-6) was one out away from the save, but Carlos Quentin’s bloop RBI double to center cut the score to 5-4 before Ramon Castro tied it with a single.
“That’s a huge game for us,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I don’t want to say this could be the biggest game for us, but the happiest with how we did it.”
Alex Rios walked leading off the ninth against Papelbon, stole second and scored when Quentin’s bloop fell in front of diving center fielder Ryan Kalish and skipped behind him. Quentin was alert and went to second when it was left uncovered as the middle infielders had headed to the outfield. Castro’s liner to the right-center gap also fell in front of a diving Kalish.
“[Kalish] just couldn’t get to it. He tried to make a great play,” Boston manager Terry Francona said of Quentin’s hit.
Papelbon walked Alexei Ramirez before Dustin Richardson relieved and walked Mark Teahen. Robert Manuel entered and issued bases-loaded walks to Beckham and Juan Pierre, making 7-5.
The White Sox had comebacks in the final two games of a three-game sweep in Cleveland.
“It shows we’re going to go hard this last month,” Rios said. “We’ve been down a couple of times [this week].”
Guillen was glad to see Beckham patient facing a young pitcher in a tight spot.
“He fouled a couple off and waited for his pitch. The kid was kind of wild,” Guillen said. “A lot of times when you’re a hitter you’re anxious and you want to win it.”
Papelbon gave up four runs, two hits and two walks in 1¤ innings.
“I’m coming in, in a situation where every little thing matters,” Papelbon said. “Trying to come into a ball game and get the hardest outs of a ball game and every little thing matters. Bloop hit, ball right off the glove. Those things turned into being big things for them. An 0-2 walk and a bloop hit. I just didn’t finish the job.”
Scott Linebrink (3-1) pitched one inning of relief for the win, and Matt Thornton got the final three outs for his sixth save.
Victor Martinez had a two-run homer for the Red Sox, who lost both games of a day-night doubleheader by 3-1 scores on Saturday.
Manny Ramirez, who went 3 for 8 on Saturday when the White Sox swept the twinbill, was not in the starting lineup, but was hit by pitch from Papelbon on the right arm while pinch hitting in the eighth inning. He left the field for a pinch runner, trotting off to a chorus of mostly boos.
Kalish broke up a possible inning-end double play on Jed Lowrie’s grounder with a take-out slide on second baseman Beckham before Martinez put Boston ahead 4-3 with his homer over the Green Monster seats against starter Mark Buehrle.
Bill Hall’s run-scoring ground out had made it 5-3 in the eighth.
The White Sox chased Josh Beckett in the seventh and scored two runs with only one infield hit to grab the 3-2 edge. Juan Pierre walked leading off and stole his major league leading 54th base. After Omar Vizquel popped out, Beckett fired widely into center for an error trying to pick off Pierre, who advanced to third. Rios walked and Bard relieved, striking out Konerko, before Rios stole second.
Quentin then hit a hard one-hop grounder off Bard’s glove that caromed to the pitcher’s right. He recovered in time, but short-hopped a throw to first baseman Mike Lowell that bounced away as both runners came home.
Beckett gave up three runs — one earned — on nine hits, walked two and struck out nine in 6¤ innings.
Buehrle gave up four runs, 10 hits, striking out six and walking one in seven innings.
The Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the third when David Ortiz, just 3 for his last 25, lined a two-run double into the right-center field gap after Darnell McDonald and Jed Lowrie singled.
Alexei Ramirez’s RBI single had given Chicago a 1-0 lead in the second.
NOTES: Konerko left the game with lower back stiffness. … Boston SS Marco Scutaro was out of the lineup and will have an MRI on Tuesday on his right shoulder. … Red Sox C Jason Varitek, on the DL since July 2 with a fractured right foot, is expected to start a rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday night. … A male fan was taken from the stands by stretcher in the fourth inning. A team spokesperson said he was checked out by emergency personnel at the park and taken to a local hospital. … Rios stole three bases, giving him 32 and tying his career high from 2008 when was with Toronto.