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CWS@SEA: Viciedo launches his first homer of the year

SEATTLE -- In Dayan Viciedo's first at-bat of the season with the White Sox, he took a big cut and dropped a soft single in front of Seattle center fielder Franklin Gutierrez during the second inning of Sunday afternoon's contest at Safeco Field.

On his second trip to the plate, Viciedo launched an 0-1 pitch from Jason Vargas some 400 feet just to the right of center for a three-run blast during a 9-3 drubbing of the overmatched Mariners to help complete a three-game weekend sweep.

As for his third and fourth at-bats? Well, Viciedo walked as part of a six-run sixth and struck out in the seventh. Even a potential White Sox savior can't be flawless with every trip to the plate.

"It was a perfect condition to come out here and do what I did," said a smiling Viciedo, through translator Jackson Miranda. "It feels really good. All the conditioning, all the work I've been doing, to get three RBIs today and a home run, that felt really good."

"Hit the [heck] out of that one, didn't he?" said White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, who was teammates with Viciedo at Triple-A Charlotte. "It was about 10 feet high."

Viciedo did more than make his presence felt in this 2011 debut. The 22-year-old known as the Cuban Tank set off a rousing round of debate among White Sox fans as to why Viciedo wasn't with the White Sox earlier and how much better would the team have been with him hitting in the middle.

Instead of completely reveling in what Viciedo can provide over the season's final month, there seemed to be a groundswell of criticism as to why he hadn't been playing for Adam Dunn and his .163 average over the past month or two. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was controlled but understandably edgy when asked about this particular public sentiment after his team closed out a 3-2 West Coast road trip.

"I don't give a [darn] what people say. I only give a [darn] what [White Sox chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf and [general manager] Kenny Williams say," Guillen said. "People out there can have their own opinion; that's their job -- talk.

"There's nothing I can do about it. I get paid to manage a team. In the time they wanted that kid here, I didn't have any place for him. We would've had to make a trade or release somebody. I wasn't in the position to say, 'Bring him up.' I couldn't play with 26 players. I don't play him because it's not my decision who's coming and who's not.

"But I like that. I hope they blame me, like 'Wow, we lose this season because Viciedo wasn't with the White Sox,'" Guillen said. "As long as I can sleep well and know I did the right thing, that's all that counts for me. They got their own opinion. They don't pay my salary."

Minor controversy aside, this day really was about the White Sox gaining ground on American League Central-leading Detroit for the first time since Aug. 16, and moving to within six games of the Tigers ahead of a three-game set coming up this weekend at Comerica Park. The White Sox (66-65) also jumped Cleveland for second place in the division, moving into that position for the first time since April 12, and climbed over the .500 mark for just the second time since April 15.

Along with Viciedo's heroics, Flowers represented the Charlotte contingency by delivering the first grand slam of his career and the first for the White Sox in 2011. His blast to left off of Vargas (7-12) in the sixth contributed to the White Sox biggest single inning since Chicago scored six in the fourth against the Dodgers on May 21.

"The grand slam, it was a cutter in where I wanted it," said Vargas, who allowed nine runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings. "I felt like I was still throwing the ball well and was going to be able to get out of that inning."

"You never know when you might get an opportunity for one of those," said Flowers, who has two homers and seven RBIs to go with his .273 average after his one-out shot to left. "It was nice to give Gavin [Floyd] a cushion so he could cruise through the rest of the game."

Floyd (12-10) was the beneficiary of this outburst, which included three hits from Paul Konerko and two from Gordon Beckham, who termed Sunday's showing as the best he has felt "in a long time." Floyd allowed two runs on five hits and struck out six over 7 1/3 innings, raising his record to 3-0 with a 1.27 ERA against the Mariners over his last five starts.

White Sox pitchers yielded five runs to the Mariners (56-76) over three games, striking out 33. They hope that success carries over to a brief three-game homestand against the Twins, starting Monday.

"We pitch well, and that's the best part of the game," Guillen said. "Meanwhile, this trip was better than what we thought. The way we started, and then coming here turned the thing around."

Much of that turnaround credit will go to Viciedo's mere presence. He hit .308 over 38 games with the White Sox in 2010, so it's not like this was a new experience for him.

Even while making two catches in right, Viciedo seemed like he belonged. White Sox fans just hope his promotion hasn't come too late to make a difference in the team's uphill playoff climb.

"I don't think the time was right to bring this kid up," said Guillen of passing over Viciedo until Carlos Quentin's injury. "Now it is. Now, we play him."

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