Defense a White Sox difference maker

White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham made a big play in the season opener. Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- On a day when runs were hard to come by, the defense managed to steal a little of the spotlight.

The Chicago White Sox not only got a solid performance from Tyler Flowers behind the plate, Gordon Beckham made the play of the day at second base -- one that was good enough for starter Chris Sale to consider it as important as anything that happened in Monday's 1-0 win over the Kansas City Royals.

In a one-run game in the seventh inning with a Royals runner on first base, Beckham made a diving catch to his right to steal a hit away from Lorenzo Cain. One batter later, Jeff Francoeur hit a grounder to third baseman Jeff Keppinger that went for a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.

“That’s just Gordon; he’s a maniac over there,” Sale said. “You almost come to expect that now. He’s just been so good, so solid for so long. He definitely saved the game right there. You’re looking at guys on first and second and no outs instead of a guy on first and then we ended up getting a double play after that. It ended up saving the day for us.”

There aren’t too many people who would deny that the Detroit Tigers have the best roster in the American League Central. The White Sox can make up the difference with intangibles, and playing solid defense is one way to bridge that gap.

“It’s one of those things where it’s a reaction play so it’s make-or-break,” Beckham said. “All of a sudden it just pops into your glove and you either got it or you don’t. I was happy. I don’t think there’s an out in the inning so there’s no telling if that could be first and third with nobody out. It was a good time to make that play.”

Last season the White Sox set a franchise record with a .9883 fielding percentage and they feel there is a potential for them to be even better this season, even with a catcher in his first year as a full-time starter.

“We have to play defense,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Teams that don’t play good defense, you just keep giving opportunities to. For us, we can’t give away opportunities. This is a good team we’re playing. You just can’t give more chances to the other side.

“For us, I think pitching and defense are going to be key, and finding a way to score some runs. We have enough to score and do things offensively. It always breaks your momentum if you’re not getting pitching and defense. It’s going to hurt you.”