There was nobody White Sox manager Robin Ventura would rather have had at the plate with runners on the corners in the 14th inning than his gritty new third baseman.
Kevin Youkilis hit a sacrifice fly on the 14th pitch of his marathon at-bat, scoring Gordon Beckham and giving Chicago a 9-8 victory over the Kansas City Royals in a game that stretched into the wee hours of Saturday morning.
"At some point you figure he's battling enough that he's going to be able to win that," Ventura said of Youkilis, who arrived in a trade with the Red Sox late last month. "He's the guy you want to have up there in that situation."
Youkilis earned the praise, but it was Beckham who got the winning rally going.
He drew a one-out walk off Everett Teaford (1-3), and Alejandro De Aza sent a single down the third-base line to put runners on the corners for Youkilis, who muscled a fly ball deep to center for what turned out to be his fifth game-winning hit in 14 games with the White Sox.
"We just kept battling back, and it was a pretty unbelievable game," Beckham said. "There were so many times I could see that game being over, but it just kept going."
Dylan Axelrod (1-2) worked around trouble in the 13th for Chicago, and then retired the side in the 14th to end a game that lasted 5 hours, 23 minutes.
Both teams had chances to end it much earlier. Royals closer Jonathan Broxton blew a save in the ninth inning and White Sox closer Addison Reed did the same in the 12th.
"The offense did a great job of battling back. We had a couple of situations to put it away, but didn't," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Both teams burned through nine pitchers, setting a franchise record for the Royals. Teaford was scheduled to start Tuesday night before being pressed into relief duty.
The game also came close to ending in the 13th inning, when Chicago's Dayan Viciedo earned a walk from Tim Collins, and Beckham doubled to score pinch-runner Jordan Danks from second base.
Jeff Francoeur answered with a double of his own leading off the bottom of the inning, and after Brayan Pena grounded out, Lorenzo Cain singled to put runners on the corners. Alex Gordon sent a chopper up the middle that scored Francoeur and kept the game alive.
Of course, that was a microcosm of the entire back-and-forth affair.
Adam Dunn and Alex Rios homered to give Chicago a 3-0 lead in the first inning, Mike Moustakas homered to help the Royals score three times in the second, and Kansas City added two more runs in the fourth — one coming on a homer by Francoeur down the third-base line.
The White Sox charged back in the fifth. Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski singled off Royals starter Bruce Chen, and Viciedo connected for a three-run homer and a 6-5 lead.
The Royals were down to their final out in the eighth inning when Cain doubled and Gordon walked. Alcides Escobar came through with a clutch two-run triple.
Broxton, who seems to make every outing an adventure, gave up a single to Youkilis to start the ninth. Dunn and Paul Konerko walked to load the bases with no outs, and after Rios flied out to center, Pierzynski sent an RBI single to right field.
Francoeur came up throwing as pinch-runner Orlando Hudson tried to score. The throw was well up the first-base line, but it arrived in plenty of time for catcher Salvador Perez to lunge back across home and make the tag — even though replays showed that Hudson may have been safe.
Ventura argued to no avail with plate umpire Chris Guccione.
The Royals put a runner aboard with one out in the 10th and couldn't get him home, and loaded the bases with one out in the 11th before Yuniesky Betancourt popped out and Moustakas grounded out to shortstop to keep the game going well into the night.
"It was crazy. You go back and forth, one team goes ahead, the other team goes ahead," Ventura said. "You don't necessarily expect that, but it happens."