First there was "Winning Ugly." Then small ball.
"Nothing ball," Aaron Rowand said Thursday after the White Sox pulled off their zaniest victory of the season.
They scored two runs in the eighth inning without the benefit of a hit, using four walks and a hit batsman to seize a 2-1 victory over Kansas City that extended their winning streak to five games.
They stole another victory despite mustering only two hits in improving their major-league-best record to 21-7 while holding their 4½-game lead over Minnesota in the American League Central.
"That was beyond ugly," said Paul Konerko, who started the winning rally with a leadoff walk off Royals starter Zack Greinke.
The Sox have managed the second-best 28-game start in franchise history with an offense that ranks in the middle of the league in batting average and runs but is hitting only .218 with runners in scoring position overall and .184 when there are two outs.
They took their luck to another extreme Thursday, not putting a runner in scoring position until the eighth and then only because of the sudden wildness of Greinke and relievers Andrew Sisco and Ambiorix Burgos.
"I can't remember the last time I saw double-digit hits," said Scott Podsednik, who drew a bases-loaded walk off Burgos to score Jermaine Dye with the winning run.
The suggestion the Sox have been getting away with murder didn't seem to bother them.
"Why can't we?" catcher A.J. Pierzynski replied. "We're confident in our bullpen and pitching and hit just enough to win. Of course, you want to blow teams out, but it isn't going to happen. As long as we win 1-0 or 10-0, winning is the most important."
Jose Contreras continued the prowess of the starting rotation with eight innings of one-run ball in what manager Ozzie Guillen said was "the best I've ever seen him throw the ball."
Rowand made a diving catch in center to start the ninth and helped avoid a disaster for Shingo Takatsu, who retired Terrence Long on a fly with the tying and winning runs on base to secure his eighth save.
Guillen doesn't mind riding the wave of pulling out late-inning victories as the Sox improved to 12-3 in one-run games.
"When you do those little things and win games, you start thinking about when we start swinging the bat well," Guillen said. "That's on my mind."
In winning their sixth straight over the Royals, the Sox improved to 18-4 against AL Central foes and helped them mount their lead.
"That's how you win a division," said Pierzynski, who played on two Central championship teams with Minnesota in 2002-03. "If you can beat teams in the division, you know you won't lose ground on the teams you have to beat to get to the postseason, especially when you play  games against those teams. May games are just as important as September games."
The Sox will find out how life is outside the division when they start a stretch of 26 games outside the Central on Friday night with a six-game trip to Toronto and Tampa Bay.
"We played very poorly in Toronto," Guillen said, recalling the Blue Jays' sweep of the Sox in a three-game series last May at the Rogers Centre. "Both teams are playing good baseball. But I don't worry about them. I worry about my team. If we continue to play the way we should be playing and stick with what we have, we can handle that."
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