For the first five innings of Monday night's game against the Detroit Tigers, things could not have gone much worse for the White Sox.
Detroit right-hander Rick Porcello was 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA this year against the Sox coming into the game, and once again, he was baffling the Chicago hitters. The Sox were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position through the first five innings. On three separate occasions, they had placed a man on second base with nobody out. All three times, the runner was stranded. The Tigers took a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning.
But then a season-long weakness jumped up and bit Detroit -- it's horrendous defense. The Tigers have committed 87 errors this season, and they have the worst defensive efficiency and range ratings in the American League. On this Monday night, Detroit committed three errors -- and a boo-boo by second baseman Omar Infante in the bottom of the sixth inning helped the Sox get off the deck.
With one out and nobody on, Infante kicked a grounder off the bat of Dewayne Wise. Paul Konerko singled, and suddenly, the Sox had runners at the corners. Could Alex Rios deliver the elusive hit with runners in scoring position? Yes, indeed he could. His three-run homer off Porcello put the Sox ahead to stay. Moments later, A.J. Pierzynski went deep as well to put Chicago up 4-1. Gordon Beckham added a two-run shot in the eighth, and the Sox prevailed 6-1.
With the win, the Sox increase their division lead in the AL Central to three games with 22 to play.
I have to admit, left-hander Jose Quintana shocked me by throwing 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball for the Sox in this game. The rookie's ERA over his last three starts was 12.66. I didn't think he was fit to start the first game of this important four-game series with the Tigers. Instead, he delivered the biggest performance of his career to improve to 6-4 on the season.
The pivotal moment for Quintana came in the top of the third inning. Already trailing 1-0, he had runners at first and second with nobody out and Detroit sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder coming to the plate. Quintana got Cabrera to ground into a double play and struck Fielder out looking to escape any damage. For that point forward Quintana allowed only one more base hit and worked three 1-2-3 innings.
The Sox also got a big contribution from left-handed relief pitcher Donnie Veal, who faced only one batter, but was it ever a big one. With runners at second and third and two outs in the eighth, Veal preserved a 4-1 lead by getting Fielder to ground out weakly to Beckham at second base. Since his recall from Charlotte, left-handed batters are 0-for-19 with 11 strikeouts against Veal. That streak won't last forever, of course, but manager Robin Ventura shouldn't hesitate to use Veal against any lefty in a clutch situation.