No. 8 hitter Gordon Beckham continued his productive return from the disabled list with an RBI double, while No. 9 hitter Tyler Flowers added a home run, his second of the series, after going over a month without a long ball.
Then there was Conor Gillaspie, who started the season in a reserve role, but has taken advantage of opportunities to become a regular fixture at third base. Gillaspie’s hitting has cooled off of late, although he did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly. In the meantime, his glove made a difference Sunday.
Not known for his glove work when the White Sox grabbed him from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for minor-league pitcher Jeff Soptic, Gillaspie was a defensive highlight reel Sunday. He made three diving stops against the A’s, getting to his feet each time to throw across the infield for the out.
“I saw they gave me the player of the game, but I said, ‘That goes to Conor for sure,’” said starting pitcher Hector Santiago, who picked up the victory.
Gillaspie’s first diving stop to his right ended the top of the third inning. His second diving stop, this one to his left, ended the top of the fifth. His final diving stop, also to his left, was the second out in the eighth inning.
“A couple of times I was late getting to the bag because I just didn’t think he could get that far to his left,” first baseman Paul Konerko said. “He’s really working hard over there and he’s come a long way since spring training. Not that he was ever bad over there, but he’s really turning into something special.”
For a team that has to make every run count because of a sluggish offense, Gillaspie turned himself into a difference-maker without his bat.
“He’s grown up,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s continuing to grow and he’s made a lot of great plays. When you play defense and you get some big hits, it just looks better. It doesn’t take much to turn the momentum. There is some positive stuff going. You get (John Danks) and what he did (Saturday), you get what these guys did today. That stuff turns and you never know what can happen when it does.
“That’s what makes these guys tough. As bad as it’s going, nobody’s pointing fingers. We’re just rolling (with it).”
If the bottom of the order can deliver and the pitching continues to hold up, the White Sox feel that improved play is on its way.
“Any time you have the bottom of the order contributing, and hopefully the top is contributing their normal share, you’re going to be that much better,” Beckham said. “Good teams have hitters one through nine. It’s good that we can do some things down there.”
As badly as the season has gone, the last-place White Sox see tiny glimmers of hope all around. It’s enough to convince them to not check out on the season, or on each other.
“The way it’s gone a lot this year, it’s been one of those where it gets to the point where you think you hit rock bottom and there was more to go in some cases,’ Konerko said. “Sometimes that can kind of bring a team together. ... It just reinforces how to do it right and to pick up your teammates, because sometimes that’s all you’ve got.
“Really, this year, it’s just to treat your teammates well and try to be a positive influence. It’s not easy when everything is going bad, but we just hope that at some point it goes as good as it’s gone bad. That’s all you can hope for and keep working for.”