KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Andre Rienzo started playing baseball in Brazil because his mother played softball. He fell in love with it even though all the kids around him were kicking around a soccer ball.
On Wednesday night, he may have inspired other youngsters back home to pick up a glove.
The White Sox's rookie pitched six innings and took advantage of a five-run frame highlighted by Dayan Viciedo's grand slam for a 5-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. It gave Rienzo the first win for a pitcher from his South American country where baseball is nary a second thought.
"Brazil is just about soccer. I'm trying to open doors," explained Rienzo, whose brothers also play baseball back home. "It's all soccer, soccer, soccer. I hope that I will open doors and people will see more guys playing baseball."
Rienzo (1-0) allowed only a sacrifice fly to Mike Moustakas while slicing through a scuffling Royals lineup. The right-hander allowed just five hits and two walks in helping the White Sox win their season-best fifth straight game.
Addison Reed worked the ninth for his second save of the series and 33rd on the year.
"Again, it's just one of those nights where he battled," Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Rienzo, who earned his first career win in his fifth big league start. "He gave up a couple walks but he was able to fight his way out of it, get a groundball when he needed it. Just a good, gutsy job by him. Once you get him that lead, he just kind of worked it."
Viciedo's grand slam off Jeremy Guthrie (12-10) in the fourth followed an RBI single by Adam Dunn that had given the White Sox the lead. Their five runs in the frame matched the number of runs the Royals' woeful offense had mustered in the previous 22 innings.
David Lough drove in another run for the Royals in the sixth, but that was all they managed in another lackluster offensive performance. They finished with six hits on the night.
The Royals were shut out by John Danks and the White Sox bullpen in the series opener, and their inability to get anybody home has been the biggest reason they've lost four straight and seven of their last nine. That calamitous slide has dropped Kansas City from wild-card contention after climbing within four games of the final spot just over a week ago.
"We have just not played well. There's no rhyme or reason," designated hitter Billy Butler said. "In 162 games it's going to happen. We're in a tough stretch and we're just not hitting. We're not getting guys in when we have them in position."
On this night, it was Rienzo who took a turn breezing through the Royals.
The 25-year-old from Sao Paulo, one of just two Brazilians in the big leagues, didn't allow a hit until back-to-back singles in the fourth. He allowed another in the fifth and two in the sixth.
Otherwise, he was basically untouchable – just as he had been in the minors.
After rocketing through two levels last season, Rienzo began catching the eye of White Sox brass at Triple-A Charlotte. He was 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA over his last four starts, including a no-hitter on July 25 – just before his call-up to the big league team.
Rienzo's rise hasn't been without controversy, though. He was suspended for 50 games early last season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
The smile on his face Wednesday night seemed to indicate that incident is long in the past.
"Viciedo hit the grand slam. The defense played great. I'm glad," Rienzo said.
Guthrie wasn't feeling nearly as pleased in the Kansas City clubhouse. He threw 72 of 100 pitches for strikes, an exceptionally high rate, but couldn't get many hitters to miss them.
After winning four straight, he's been savagely roughed up in his last three starts. He gave up five runs on 10 hits in a loss to Boston a couple weeks ago, and four runs on a career-high 13 hits at Detroit in another defeat his last time out.
"I dug myself into a big hole," Guthrie said. "I made mistakes tonight."
NOTES: Viciedo finished with three hits for the Sox. ... The Sox optioned OF Blake Tekotte to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. They'll make a corresponding roster move Wednesday. ... Guthrie threw a pitch in the second inning that slipped past C Salvador Perez and got lost in the padding around advertisements behind home plate. The exact same thing happened to a passed ball thrown by Royals RHP Ervin Santana the previous night. ... White Sox LHP Jose Quintana goes to the mound in the series finale on Thursday night. RHP James Shields gets the start for Kansas City.