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Sox's Ozuna clutch in ugly victory
Baseball's best team also is the luckiest.
Here's how well it's going for the White Sox, who won their seventh consecutive game Sunday: They beat Kansas City 4-3 at Kauffman Stadium despite making four errors, starter Orlando Hernandez walking six batters in five innings, and failing to get a runner in scoring position for six consecutive innings.
"This was ugly," manager Ozzie Guillen said.
The Sox employed a goofy formula that saw Pablo Ozuna deliver a two-out, pinch-hit double that scored the winning run in the eighth inning.
But Guillen was caught in the crossfire of trying to win with a depleted roster, so Ozuna played the final two innings at first base for the first time in his career.
Fortunately, he did fine, even making an impressive backhanded stop to retire the formidable Mike Sweeney in the ninth that helped Shingo Takatsu earn his sixth save.
"I took a chance," Guillen said. "I just needed to score a run in that particular inning. I didn't care about the defense at that time."
The Sox are pulling out all the stops as they improved their franchise-best start to 15-4. They have won all seven of their series this season, including three consecutive series sweeps.
They proved Sunday they could beat a sneaky enemythemselves.
"Putting guys on base and making errors isn't the recipe for winning, but we're not going to argue with it," said Paul Konerko, who contributed with a single during the two-run eighth. "We'll just take the win and move on. We won't question everything and keep riding the wave here."
The Sox committed enough mistakes to appreciate the fortune that allowed them to sustain their longest winning streak since winning eight straight July 18-25, 2003.
"No guy on this team thinks we're unbeatable," Konerko said. "We understand that if we played this type of game 10 times, we'd lose a majority of the time. So we know we have to get better than we played.
"At the same time, we have to be doing some things right. We got timely hitting, and the relief pitching was awesome. We're going to have to find different ways to win this year. We found out a couple already."
They have needed to be resourceful in posting a 7-1 record in one-run games.
The Sox were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position until Aaron Rowand hit an RBI single and Ozuna followed with an opposite-field double that skipped past Sweeney at first base.
The Sox are batting only .214 with runners in scoring position this season.
They also had to stretch their bullpen, which threw 62/3 innings Saturday, because Hernandez needed 111 pitches to get through five innings.
Hernandez's wildness and errors by right fielder Timo Perez and second baseman Willie Harris in the fifth allowed the Royals to score twice and tie the game 2-2 after the Sox had jumped out to a 2-0 in the first.
The Royals took a short-lived 3-2 lead in the seventh when Matt Stairs hit a home run off reliever Cliff Politte.
The four Sox errors were their most in a game since May 26, 2003, at Toronto.
They also managed to win without an offensive contribution from third baseman Joe Crede, whose career-best hitting streak ended at 14 games when he lined out to third baseman Joe McEwing for the final out in the ninth.
Guillen also avoided using reliever Dustin Hermanson, who hasn't pitched since Thursday because of back stiffness.
"Right now we feel everything we do will work out for us, but the players make it work," Guillen said.