ARLINGTON -- White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers had himself quite a game during a 3-1 victory over Texas on Thursday night before 31,199 at Rangers Ballpark.
Flowers launched the game-winning three-run homer in the sixth. He did an exceptional job handling Hector Santiago's first 2013 start, and before the White Sox first road series victory of the campaign, Flowers even caught a wayward dog in the visitors' dugout that had escaped from the ballpark's pregame "Bark at the Park" festivities.
"It was definitely a good day," said Flowers, who has put the White Sox in front with each of his four homers.
Up until postgame Wednesday night, Flowers and Santiago thought they would be working together in chilly and snowy Kansas City on Friday night. Instead, this battery united in an unseasonably chilly Arlington that had a first-pitch temperature of 44 degrees, marking the third-coldest in the history of the ballpark, with Jake Peavy being scratched due to back spasms.
Judging by the positive results, Santiago (1-1) didn't mind the adjustment. The left-hander, who was 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA over four previous career starts, allowed just one run on two hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out six, walked two and threw 92 pitches, after originally moving from the bullpen into the rotation to take the spot vacated by Gavin Floyd's strained right flexor muscle, which Floyd confirmed as a muscular tear following the win.
It has always been Santiago's goal to be a full-time starter, and his results are strongly supporting that thought process. The only hit Santiago yielded over the first five innings was Adrian Beltre's solo homer on an 0-1 pitch to open the second.
"He's good," said Rangers designated hitter Lance Berkman of Santiago. "I don't know why he's not in their rotation to begin with."
"Before the game, he was talking to me and said, 'Hey, you want to go over their lineup?' I said, 'Do you?' and he said, 'Not really,'" said Flowers, pointing out that the somewhat unknown start might have been better for Santiago. "I just said, 'Throw what I put down and let's go from there.' He's one of those guys I think is more effective because he doesn't overthink things. Let's throw this pitch and execute it and move on to the next one."
Santiago was replaced by Matt Lindstrom in the sixth after Ian Kinsler doubled and Elvis Andrus walked. Berkman drew a walk from Lindstrom to load the bases with one out, but Beltre hit into an inning-ending around-the-horn double play, started by third baseman Conor Gillaspie and bailed out by a slick scoop from first baseman Adam Dunn.
That blast to left by Beltre looked for a while as if it would stand up as the game's lone run, with Justin Grimm (2-1) matching Santiago pitch for pitch. The White Sox (12-15) did waste scoring opportunities in each of the first three innings, stranding six, including the bases loaded with one out in the third when Paul Konerko and Gillaspie struck out swinging.
With two outs in the sixth, Gillaspie and Alexei Ramirez singled and Flowers launched Grimm's first pitch 397 feet down the left-field line. Flowers crossed home plate in front of A.J. Pierzynski, the staple behind the plate from 2005-12 for the White Sox, who was making his first start of the series.
"I thought it was kind of awkward coming home and seeing him standing there just like I thought it was awkward when he came up in the box yesterday," said Flowers, who formed a good working bond with Pierzynski last season. "I'm sure he thought it was awkward when he had to face [Matt] Thornton after catching him for [seven] years.
"I'm glad we got it over with though. He's got his at-bats against us, we've gotten him out, we've hit him. All that kind of stuff. It seems like all the drama should be over now when they come to our place."
A little bit of drama was left for the ninth inning when closer Addison Reed walked Nelson Cruz and brought Pierzynski to the plate as the game-tying run. Pierzynski fouled off a 2-0 fastball and then struck out swinging on two straight changeups.
Despite mixing in a second walk to David Murphy, Reed struck out the side to preserve his 10th save in 10 chances and the club's second straight victory.
"We've been kind of struggling," said Santiago, who surpassed his season-high pitch count of 86 in relief this past Saturday. "Hopefully we get back on track and I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win and keep us in the game.
"'Flow' kept mixing it up well. The first two innings we went fastball, screwball and changeup. Then we mixed in the slider from the third on. It was a good mix of pitches and we kept them off of everything."
Fifty-three of the White Sox 97 runs scored this season have come via the long ball, and the White Sox have homered in 11 straight games. Thursday's shot was a memorable one for Flowers, as part of a strange but memorable night.
"Nobody is easy, but these guys are tough," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "We scratch Jake tonight and Hector fills in on short rest and does a great job.
"It's a good way to start a road trip, especially after the last one, when we were losing and losing people. We're still losing people, but at least we're winning games."