Quintana, White Sox close gap on Tribe

Quintana, White Sox close gap on Tribe

Quintana, White Sox close gap on Tribe
CHICAGO -- Friday's schedule for Jose Quintana originally listed a start at Triple-A Charlotte, taking on Lehigh Valley, after his promotion from Double-A Birmingham.

When John Danks was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain, that Quintana promotion took another step up to Chicago's South Side, where he faced the American League Central-leading Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.

"This is better," said Quintana with a laugh, after giving up just two runs over six innings to pick up his first Major League victory during a 9-3 drubbing of the Indians.

Quintana has now made two big league appearances during the 2012 season, and for that matter, during his professional career. They both have come against a fairly potent lineup fielded by the Indians (26-19), and he has yielded just the two runs on five hits over 11 2/3 innings.

As solid as Quintana's relief appearance turned out to be in the first game of a May 7 doubleheader, his first big league start was even more impressive.

"He's been great," said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, whose two-run, first-inning homer gave Quintana an early lead. "It's a pretty tough lineup to go through, especially to go through it twice like he has. He kept us in the ballgame."

"The way [Quintana] pitched in Cleveland kind of got him this start, but he has a lot of composure," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "Kind of reminds you, or for me anyway, of Wilson Alvarez. He just kind of has a similar delivery and mannerisms. He's a little more mature than you'd think he was even though he's coming out of Double-A, but it's exactly what we needed."

Cleveland scored single runs in the first and the third off of Quintana, but their biggest opportunity came in the fifth. It was at that point when the southpaw hurler came of age.

Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Kipnis drew back-to-back walks with one out in the frame and the White Sox clinging to a 3-2 lead. A wild pitch moved the tying run to third and the go-ahead run into scoring position.

Asdrubal Cabrera, arguably the Indians' best hitter, battled Quintana through a 10-pitch at-bat before popping up in foul territory to first baseman Paul Konerko. Carlos Santana grounded the next pitch weakly to third baseman Orlando Hudson, ending the inning and keeping the White Sox (24-22) safely ahead.

"That kind of gave us some energy, gave us some momentum and we were able to tack on as the game went on," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who guided Santana through the fifth. "He made some good pitches. He battled and he wasn't scared."

"His fastball is pretty sneaky," said Kipnis of Quintana. "You see it well, but then you wonder why you keep fouling them off straight back. He did a good job again. It's just one of those nights we didn't come up with a big hit. It happens."

After that escape act, Quintana returned for the sixth and retired Jose Lopez, Shelley Duncan and Johnny Damon on 10 pitches. Hector Santiago and Zach Stewart finished for Quintana, who fanned four and walked three.

Home runs put the White Sox in control against Cleveland starter Jeanmar Gomez (3-3). Dunn's 413-foot blast was his 15th of the season and 380th of his career, pushing him into sole possession of 63rd place on the all-time list, one ahead of Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda.

Pierzynski opened the second with his eighth home run on a 1-2 pitch from Gomez, matching his total from the entire 2011 campaign. The White Sox then took control with a three-run rally in the sixth that started after two routine outs.

Alexei Ramirez's run-scoring single off Gomez and Alejandro De Aza's two-run single against reliever Jairo Asencio accounted for the three runs but were aided by three walks. De Aza, the White Sox leadoff hitter, has six RBIs over his last two games.

Three more unearned runs came home against Asencio with two outs in the seventh, courtesy of Pierzynski's triple aided by Aaron Cunningham's dive in center on the line drive and Viciedo's absolute blast to center for his ninth homer. The White Sox have eight homers and 20 runs scored in their last two games and have 24 long balls in their streak of 11 straight games with a homer.

"We have guys that can hit home runs," Pierzynski said. "You can't go up there trying to hit home runs, but you can go up there and try to put good swings on balls and if the ball goes out, it goes out."

"There were some other at-bats in there," Ventura said. "De Aza's bases-loaded [single] was a big one. We are going to score runs other ways, too."

A third straight win for the White Sox and seventh in the last eight games also moved them to within 2 1/2 of the Indians in the division. Travis Hafner already is out for the weekend, and Cabrera (left hamstring tightness) and Santana (hit in the mask with a foul ball) both exited early Friday.

If the White Sox continue to slug and get another pitching performance like the one from Quintana, who earned a second start vs. the Rays on Wednesday, they won't have to worry as much about the opposition.

"There have been some ups and downs, and we know we are in for a dogfight," Pierzynski said. "But at the end of the day, when we come in, we know there's a positive vibe in here and guys want to do well. We like where we are at."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.