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Addison Reed makes it interesting in White Sox’ win

Chris Sale gave up five hits his first three innings but then retired last 10 hitters he faced. | David

Chris Sale gave up five hits in his first three innings, but then retired the last 10 hitters he faced. | David Banks~Getty Images

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Updated: October 10, 2012 6:44AM

Major-league veterans say the grind of a season peaks in September when the pressure of reaching the playoffs magnifies every pitch of every game.

It is a new pressure for White Sox lefty Chris Sale and rookie closer Addison Reed — one they are trying to minimize. 

‘‘I just try to close my mind out there,’’ Sale said. ‘‘The more you think about things and put pressure on yourself, that’s not how you want to be. You still have to just make your pitches.’’

It took three innings for Sale (16-6) to find his pitching groove Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. And it took a renewed focus by Reed (26th save) in the ninth to hang on for a 5-4 victory against the Royals, who had won the last six straight meetings.

‘‘It’d be nice if it had been easier, but at the end of the day we got the win,’’ Reed said.

A day earlier, Reed yielded a game-winning two-run homer to Lorenzo Cain. On Saturday, the two met again in the ninth with two in, two out and the tying run at second. This time, Cain struck out, assuring that the Sox maintained their lead over the Detroit Tigers.

‘‘They’ve been tough on us,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘It’s good to get a win, beat a good pitcher [Bruce Chen] and get ready for tomorrow.’’

Scouts following the Sox have noted a drop in Reed’s velocity, but Ventura reaffirmed his confidence in the rookie Saturday.

‘‘He told me ‘go after him,’ ’’ Reed said of Ventura’s instructions during a brief mound visit before Cain’s at-bat.

‘‘We’ll worry about development next year,’’ Ventura said of Reed. ‘‘Right now, I just want him to get three outs. He’s earned his stripes as far as I’m concerned. He’s gone through a lot already in one year.

‘‘No closer is ever going to be perfect but if he loses his confidence, that would be one thing — and he hasn’t. That’s a good sign for a young kid.’’

Reed leads rookies in saves with 26. In save opportunities, he has allowed at least one run only five times. His ERA is 3.78 in save situations (12 earned runs in 282/3 innings) and 6.23 in non-save situations (15 earned runs in 212/3 innings).

Sale, in his first year as a starter, has maintained his confidence and showed his development by adjusting after struggling in his first three innings when he gave up five hits. He gave up none in his next three innings and retired the last 10 batters he faced.

‘‘The first few innings were kind of erratic, all over the place, and honestly I just tried to go out and battle it out,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a good hitting team and they like to swing and when they start to take a lot of pitches on you, you know you’ve got to turn things around and start throwing more strikes.’’

Sale credited catcher Tyler Flowers with getting him on track.

Flowers helped provide run support as well with a two-run homer in the fourth, one of three the Sox hit Saturday off Chen (10-12), who saw his personal four-game win streak against the Sox end.

Dayan Viciedo (20th) and Paul Konerko (22nd) had the others.

The Sox became the first team this season to have five players with at least 20 homers (Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, A.J. Pierzynski, Konerko and Viciedo).

Sale improved to 8-0 with a 1.20 ERA and 69 strikeouts in his last nine games at U.S. Cellular Field.

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