Until Sunday afternoon, it hadn't been the greatest of starts for Dayan Viciedo.
The 24-year-old Cuban-born outfielder had a few troubles in the field during the Chicago White Sox' first series against the Kansas City Royals while also going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in the final game.
He came into the series finale against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field hitting .133 in 15 at bats.
After sitting out Saturday's game, Viciedo halted the skid, launching the first game-winning home run of his career off reliever Kameron Loe in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the Mariners 4-3 while also adding a nice outfield assist to save a run earlier in the game.
"I feel very happy," Viciedo said through an interpreter. "I feel like it was my turn to do something to help the team and I'm very happy about what happened."
Viciedo's run-saving assist happened in the seventh, when he fielded a ball off the wall in left and fired a strike to second base to get lumbering Mariners' first baseman Justin Smoak for the inning's first out. Two hitters later, with the game still tied 3-3, Robert Andino hit a ground-rule double to right.
"I hit it hard and I was thinking two out of the box all the way," said Smoak, who went 1-for-3 with a walk. "It bounced right back to him and he made a good throw. If it doesn't bounce right back to him and he doesn't make a good throw, I'm in there."
Considering the White Sox have committed at least one error in five straight games -- including one by Viciedo against Kansas City -- the play stood out afterward.
"I was prepared for it," Viciedo said. "I knew it was a slow runner, so I wanted to get him. I wanted that chance and got a chance to throw him out."
Alex Rios and Adam Dunn also homered for the White Sox (4-2), who again got all of their runs by way of the long ball. Chicago has now drilled 11 home runs in the season's first six games. So far, it's working out pretty well. This was the second straight three-game series win for the Sox, who now hit the road for the first time with a 10-game, three-series swing to Washington, Toronto and Cleveland.
Chicago has also gotten good pitching almost across the board from its starting staff and relievers -- who again saved the day after starter Chris Sale left after seven innings trailing 3-2. Rios hit his solo homer in the bottom half of the inning -- his third in as many games -- to get Sale off the hook for the loss and set up another late-inning win.
"It's a good bullpen," Sox' catcher Tyler Flowers said. "We have a lot of talent out there and they seem to be ready to go every time they're out. It makes it a little bit easier for me when I know they're going to hit their spots and have their good stuff."
Seattle (3-4) now heads home for the first time. The Mariners got another strong outing from starter Hisashi Iwamura, who went eight innings and gave up three runs on just 89 pitches, but it just wasn't enough.
"It was a hard-fought ballgame, it was a hard-fought series," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "We had opportunities there to do something and we didn't take advantage of it and they took it from there."
Sale and Iwakuma each gave up two-run homers in the first inning, with Michael Morse taking a 2-2 pitch deep to left field with Jason Bay aboard in the top half and Adam Dunn matching it in the bottom against Iwamura, blasting a 427-foot shot to right that plated Alexei Ramirez.
After that, the starters settled down and started to control the game. Neither allowed another run until Kendrys Morales hit a solo homer off Sale in the sixth for a 2-1 lead. Until that point, just two of the next 16 hitters following Morse's home run reached base off Sale, and those two were stranded in the fourth.
Iwamura was even better. He retired 16 in a row after giving up Dunn's homer and looked like he might cruise to the finish with a low pitch count until Rios tied it at three leading off the seventh.
Chicago then won a battle of the bullpens for the second straight day, with Matt Lindstrom and Jesse Crain pitching scoreless innings of relief before Reed worked out of a two-on, two out jam in the 10th by striking out Morse. That set the stage for Viciedo's heroics.
"He's so talented and so good," Dunn said. "It's just literally scratching the surface of how good he's going to be. He can do everything. He hits the ball so hard and when he learns his swing and these pitchers, he's going to be a stud for a long time."
NOTES: The White Sox made a change to their starting rotation by flip-flopping scheduled starts for Jose Quintana and fifth-starter Dylan Axelrod. Axelrod will now start Thursday's game in Washington, while Quintana will go Friday in Cleveland. ... Gordon Beckham's throwing error in the eighth pushed the White Sox's streak of games with at least one error to five straight games. ... Sox infielder Jeff Keppinger, mired in a 1-for-21 slump (.048) to start the season, did not start. ... The Mariners don't get a day off until April 15, which is a rare and taxing schedule. "It seems like we've been gone forever, which we have (been)," Wedge said. "I'm happy for the guys. We have a nice long home stand and we finally get an off day." ... Wedge wanted another veteran hitter higher in the batting order against Sale, so he put outfielder Jason Bay in the second spot.
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