CHICAGO -- During Saturday's 5-4 White Sox victory over the Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field, the 27,562 in attendance watched bench coach Mark Parent serve as the team's acting manager.
Tyler Flowers, the White Sox backup catcher who started the game on the bench, eventually launched the game-tying homer, and utility infielder Rey Olmedo became the team's de facto reserve backstop. Addison Reed, whose rare wild streak helped contribute to a six-run, ninth-inning Seattle comeback on Friday, closed the door on this occasion but not without a few tense moments.
Such is the exciting life of what the White Sox hope is their ride to the American League Central title. And much like Friday's come-from-behind, walk-off affair, the White Sox (70-55) didn't much care how they won as much as the fact they were victorious for a fifth straight time on this six-game homestand.
"Oh, huge win," said Flowers of the White Sox improving to 20-5 in their last 25 home games and 23-4 against the Mariners since the start of 2010. "[Jose] Quintana coming out of the gate a little rough, the way he bounced back and gave us those innings. Great job by him. We swung the bats pretty well and we pitched well enough."
Both Parent and Flowers were pressed into service in the top of the third inning, when home-plate umpire Lance Barrett tossed out A.J. Pierzynski and Robin Ventura for arguing the first pitch of a one-out at-bat by Justin Smoak. Pierzynski stayed in his crouch during the brief argument, but Barrett stepped away just seconds after the fastball was called a ball and gave Pierzynski his sixth career ejection.
Ventura also was thrown out by Barrett, the White Sox manager's third of the season, and then appeared to put his hands on crew chief Jim Joyce's chest as Joyce moved Ventura out of the way to end the argument. Although the White Sox didn't claim the lead until the sixth, the heated exchange seemed to fire up the team.
"I think it woke up the crowd, it woke up the players," Parent said. "[Ventura] got A.J. out of the way like he's supposed to and then he said what he needed to say. He wasn't going to leave until he got it out of his mouth. It was a good little argument and it fired everybody up."
"It just gets you going. It gets you excited to know the manager is behind everybody," Pierzynski said. "It spurred us on to the win."
While Pierzynski and Ventura were in the game, the White Sox spotted Seattle (61-66) a three-run lead in the first as Quintana threw 42 pitches and just 21 for strikes. Quintana walked four in the inning and gave up a three-run homer to Kyle Seager, but when he retired Brendan Ryan on a fly ball to center to leave the bases loaded, the rookie at least gave the White Sox a chance to rally.
Pierzynski mentioned that everything early from Quintana was the same speed, from 87 to 91 mph, and he didn't have his curve but soon found it. Quintana battled back to allow just those first-inning runs on five hits, while striking out four and throwing 112 pitches over 5 2/3 innings.
"We had them kind of on the ropes in that first inning and we were a couple big swings from maybe even getting him out of the ballgame early and that completely changes the complexion of the whole game," said Seager. "He came back and ended up throwing a really good game and going six innings. You have to give him credit. He did a good job bouncing back."
"To be honest with you, I really could not pinpoint what it was," said Quintana, through translator and White Sox manager of cultural development Jackson Miranda, of his early struggles. "At that moment, I was just trying to throw strikes but it just wasn't happening. After that inning, I just had to calm myself down and then I came back out and I felt fine."
Paul Konerko's run-scoring single in the first and a run-scoring single from Alex Rios in the third cut the lead to 3-2. Flowers hit the first pitch from Blake Beavan (8-8) in the sixth for his fifth homer. Alexei Ramirez followed with a double, and Dewayne Wise delivered a two-out single to center off left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush to score the go-ahead run.Alexei Ramirez drove in a run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly, set up by Rios' double and Flowers' perfectly placed bunt single with two strikes. Nate Jones (6-0) picked up the win by throwing one pitch and retiring Ryan on a groundout with two runners on base in the sixth, and Brett Myers continued the stellar work out of the bullpen by pitching 1 1/3 innings and escaping a bases-loaded jam in the seventh by retiring pinch-hitter John Jaso on a popup to second baseman Gordon Beckham.
Those efforts set the stage for Reed (24th save), who yielded a two-out Seager homer and Smoak's bloop single before getting Jaso on a foul popup to Kevin Youkilis. The White Sox survived another wild night and maintained their 2 1/2-game lead over the Tigers, who rallied to beat the Angels, 5-3.
"Isn't that how every game's supposed to go?" said Parent with a smile. "No, these guys are great. They just come out ready to play every day and if we're down, they don't really care. We'll fight back.
"Every game seems to be one run either way. We just keep pushing and stay aggressive."