Vazquez nearly unhittable in Sox win

Vazquez nearly unhittable in White Sox win

CHICAGO -- Here's a tip for hitters: Watch out for Javier Vazquez.

The White Sox were worried about Vazquez tipping his pitches after his last start. If the Kansas City Royals knew what was coming, then his performance was even more impressive.

Vazquez, the newest addition to the vaunted White Sox rotation, pitched a near-flawless game, allowing just two hits, to earn his first win with the club in a 4-0 victory over the Royals on Wednesday.

"He was throwing the ball real well," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "The outing before, it was between location and tipping the pitch. You can count on him every time he comes out, because he's a great worker. When you work that hard, it pays off."

Vazquez earned two standing ovations on the day. One after Doug Mientkiewicz ended his no-hit bid with a check-swing single in the seventh, and again when he left the game after allowing his second hit, a single to Esteban German in the ninth. Neal Cotts came in but was ineffective, making way for Bobby Jenks to get his sixth save in as many chances.

"I was aware of it," Vazquez said of the no-hitter. "But I'm not thinking about it. It's too tough to throw a no-hitter."

Vazquez struck out eight and walked one in eight-plus innings. The win was the White Sox (10-5, one game off their 2005 pace) fifth straight, completing a series sweep of Kansas City (2-12), which has lost 10 straight. All three games featured dominating pitching performances from White Sox starters Jose Contreras, Jon Garland and Vazquez, who combined, allowed just one run in the entire series.

"Jose set the right tone in Game 1, followed by Jon yesterday and then Javy today," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "That's what we're trying to get going is our pitchers rolling and the last few games you've seen it."

Vazquez, who was acquired from Arizona in the Orlando Hernandez deal, was perfect through four innings until he walked Matt Stairs on a 3-2 pitch to lead off the fifth.

The talented Puerto Rican hurler retired the next seven batters until Mientkiewicz checked his swing on a cut fastball, sending the ball slowly rolling up the third-base line. Vazquez ran after it, but it was too late to make the out.

"What can you do?" Vazquez said. "But it kind of [stinks] that was the first hit. But what can you do? It's part of the game. God didn't want me to have a no-hitter today."

"I tried to dig a ditch to get the ball to go foul, but it didn't work," third baseman Joe Crede said.

There was much talk of Vazquez "joining the club" as the last White Sox hurler to earn a win this season. He joined Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Contreras and Garland from last year's World Series-winning rotation and he had something to prove.

"It helps," Vazquez said of the competition. "You see all those guys go out there, Buehrle, Garland, Contreras, Freddy, they all throw good games and you kind of want to follow up. Sometimes it doesn't happen, but we all have the potential to do that."

He got a no-decision in his first start on April 8, also against Kansas City, but allowed just two runs on five hits, striking out seven. Vazquez gave up seven runs on nine hits in six innings last week in a 13-7 loss to Toronto. Guillen said the coaches thought the hitters knew what was coming.

"He's tipping his pitches," Guillen said before the game. "I don't care if people say yes or no. Because you do not lay off breaking balls the way they were doing it. He's got enough stuff for them to feel uncomfortable facing him."

"Just trying to stay tall and work downhill, instead of side-to-side," Vazquez said of his prep work before the start. "Sometimes I have the tendency to go side-to-side. I need to work downhill, that's the arm angle I have to have."

The White Sox scored runs on a wild pitch, passed ball, a hit batsman with the bases loaded, and more traditionally, on a solo homer by No. 9 hitter Juan Uribe.

The White Sox led, 1-0, going into the fifth. Uribe led off with his 384-foot homer, his first of the season, to left-center.

Scott Podsednik followed with a double off Royals starter Scott Elarton. One out later, Jim Thome was given an intentional walk on a 3-1 count. Paul Konerko then loaded the bases with a single and Podsednik scored when Elarton hit Jermaine Dye on the right shoulder.

Elarton was pulled in favor of Luke Hudson to face Pierzynski. Thome then scored on a passed ball that skipped through catcher Paul Bako's legs.

Alex Cintron singled in the first inning and scored from third on a wild pitch from Elarton.

Jon Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.