CHICAGO -- The last game worked by Jake Petricka on Tuesday in San Francisco resulted in an extra-inning victory for the White Sox but also a blown save for the White Sox closer.
Petricka allowed two runs on four hits without finishing the ninth, a ledger that could have been worse if not for a spectacular double play started by second baseman Gordon Beckham. But when Petricka entered Sunday's series finale against the Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field, looking for his ninth save and hoping to close out his team's 7-5 victory, he wasn't thinking about that most recent trouble spot.
It's a good thing he wasn't because Petricka worked himself into and then out of danger during a 20-pitch frame, finishing the first series victory of August for the White Sox (59-65).
After Melky Cabrera grounded out to Beckham to start the ninth, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both drew walks. Danny Valencia followed with a single to left to load the bases. But Petricka retired Colby Rasmus on a weak fly ball to left fielder Alejandro De Aza, coming on a 0-1 changeup, and knocked down Nolan Reimold on a grounder to Beckham via a 1-1, 94 mph fastball.
Call it another valuable late-inning lesson learned by the rookie.
"Every closer ever, you expect stuff like that," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Petricka's dicey but successful close. "I don't think it has anything to do with a guy being young. There are guys that have done it a long time and it's the same way. It's a tough role, it's unforgiving."
"You have to go out there and make your pitches," Petricka said. "I got lucky tonight walking consecutive batters. You can never do that. I got lucky and made the pitches after that and got the outs I needed. It's really just not putting too much pressure on the situation."
A need existed for Petricka primarily because of a six-run first put together by the White Sox against Toronto starter Drew Hutchison (8-11). The White Sox didn't do much after the first, adding a Jordan Danks ' sacrifice fly in the sixth, but it was enough.
Conor Gillaspie erased a 1-0 deficit in the first when he connected on a 2-2 offering for his first career grand slam. The blast from Gillaspie, his fifth, followed De Aza's single and two-out walks issued to Adam Dunn and Avisail Garcia.
"Sometimes you get 'em up in the air. Sometimes you miss 'em," said Gillaspie, who has hit safely in eight of his last nine games. "It was definitely a good jump start to the game and I felt like everybody did a great job all around today."
"When you look at it, where he runs into trouble, the ball just starts coming up in the zone, particularly his changeup and even his fastball," said Toronto manager John Gibbons of the struggles for Hutchison, although he lasted seven innings. "When he's down, he's real tough."
Beckham kept the first going with a single, and Danks capped the scoring with a two-run homer to left-center. Since rejoining the White Sox, Danks is hitting .350 in 20 at-bats covering seven games.
Scott Carroll (5-7) earned the victory thanks to the first-inning support, although the Blue Jays slowly worked their way back into the contest with three in the fifth and one in the sixth. Daniel Webb, Eric Surkamp and Zach Putnam gave a two-run lead to Petricka, who battled his way to victory.
Having a short memory stands as one of the key attributes for any closer, and Petricka showed that ability even within this given inning. On a 1-0 pitch to Encarnacion, who hit his 27th homer earlier in the contest, Petricka missed with a fastball down the middle of the plate. Luckily for the White Sox, Encarnacion also missed on a chance to tie the game with Bautista on first and fouled the pitch back.
That sequence wasn't so much about luck for Petricka, as much as it was part of the process in his 18th scoreless outing over his last 21 appearances.
"He didn't try to foul the pitch off. He tried to hit it hard," said Petricka, who helped the White Sox improve to 14-11 against the American League East and 34-30 against teams with winning records. "It's part of the game. It gives you confidence when they miss them and you know you miss. So, you can come after him even harder next time."
"Most of the time you're going to see the tying run come to the plate or the winning run come to the plate," said Ventura of Petricka and closing. "You just have to be able to handle it."