Late rally wins game for Sox
Fields homers twice; late RBI double and triple gets victory
CHICAGO -- As a college student at Oklahoma State, Josh Fields used to split his time between the baseball diamond and the football field. In two seasons as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, Fields set the school record for touchdown passes, but chose to stick with baseball after the White Sox selected him in the first round of the 2004 Draft.
On Friday night, Fields brought some of the raw power he used to show on the gridiron to U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox rookie had his first career multi-home run game and made a number of key defensive plays to help the South Siders to a 5-3 victory over the Mariners in front of a sellout crowd of 38,586 fans.
Fields hit a pair of solo shots off Seattle starter Jarrod Washburn for his 10th and 11th home runs of the season.
Friday's fireworks display came just one day after a 0-for-4, three-strikeout performance for Fields in a 7-5 loss to Cleveland.
"On certain days I feel good," Fields said. "The main thing is to eliminate the 0-for-4, 0-for-5 games. I'm starting to get a better handle on that. I'm not freaking out when I go 0-for-4 and I strike out three times. I'm able to come to the ballpark with a different attitude the next day and I'm anxious to get my next at-bats."
But Fields did not only contribute with his bat. The Sox third baseman robbed Adrian Beltre of a base hit with a sliding stop towards the line and helped bail Javier Vazquez out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning with a heads-up play.
With the bags full and just one out in a 3-3 game, Jose Vidro hit a bouncing ball towards Fields at third. He initially tried to go to second base for a double play, but bobbled the ball and instead fired it towards the plate, where the throw barely beat a sliding Kenji Johjima.
Vazquez got Jose Guillen to ground out one batter later, to end the inning and the threat.
Fields, who is second on the team with seven errors on the season, made a critical error on Thursday during Cleveland's game-winning rally.
"Fields is going to make great plays and he is going to make errors, that is just part of the game," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I don't worry about it if one player makes an error on the field physically. You can correct that. Mentally, that is the one I don't tolerate. The physical errors are the ones that are supposed to happen. You stay loose and let them play the game. Don't panic."
Fields emerged as the White Sox starting third baseman following a back injury to the defensively gifted Joe Crede. Fields has been working hard to duplicate his predecessors' achievements with the leather.
"I really don't think I could be called a good third baseman right now," Fields said. "I'm out there working every day. [Bench coach] Joey [Cora] has me out there working. I have a glove the size of my hand and they are hitting me ground balls. My first thing is: catch the ball, then throw it. Half the time I'm catching it, and other times I'm bobbling it. I had a couple of bobbles in the game tonight and thank goodness it didn't end up hurting us."
Vazquez made a pair of defensive miscues of his own, including a throwing error on a potential double-play ball in the seventh to help the Mariners load the bases.
But Vazquez was able to overcome his own errors and limit the Mariners offense to just three runs in seven innings on the mound. Seattle had scored 31 runs in their past three games, a sweep at Baltimore.
"That is one thing [Vazquez] is doing this year that he couldn't do in the past," said Guillen of his starter's ability to battle out of jams. "He could have come out last year in a tough situation. He's given me a chance to have more confidence in him, and we did in that particular inning. He pitched well, he never panicked, he never lost control and that is why he came out of that jam the way he did."
Vazquez has gone 7-1 with a 2.89 ERA over his last 10 starts.
"I think we just played the way we thought we should play," Guillen said. "We swung it better, we had clutch hitting, we had clutch pitching. If you put all those things together you have a chance to win a few more games and be a little more exciting. That's what we are doing right now."
Not long after Vazquez fought through the bases loaded situation, Juan Uribe gave the White Sox the lead for good. Uribe doubled in the bottom of the seventh to score Jermaine Dye, who also hit his 24th home run of the season in the game, to give the Sox a 4-3 advantage. Uribe scored later that inning on a Darin Erstad triple.
It was the second game-winning hit in the last three games for Uribe, who also hit a walk-off home run to help the South Siders beat Cleveland on Wednesday night.
The Sox bullpen followed Vazquez's clutch pitching with a little bit of their own. Mike MacDougal kept the Mariners scoreless in the eighth, even when Seattle put the first two hitters of the inning on base, and Bobby Jenks went 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Jenks has now retired 38 consecutive hitters, dating back to July 17, tying David Wells' American League record. Jim Barr set the Major League record in 1972, when he put down 41 hitters in order.
The White Sox relief corps has given up just five earned runs over its last 29 2/3 innings.
The victory cut the White Sox deficit in the AL Central to 10 1/2 games, with 47 games left on the schedule.
"There are a lot of things that happen in baseball," Vazquez said. "You never know. We continue to play good baseball. That's all we can control. We still have to build yourself for next year, but we want to finish on a good note."
Alex Gyr is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.