Quentin continues to be clutch
Outfielder puts it away after Floyd fans seven over six frames
CLEVELAND -- Look back at this past week when the White Sox long regular season comes to a close in late September. Study it especially close if the South Siders have wrapped up the American League Central crown.
Taking five of six games in a nine-day time period from the Indians, who were considered the division's gold standard prior to the first pitch of the 2008 campaign, certainly pointed the White Sox in the right direction in regard to the ultimate goals they planned to achieve. That fifth win came Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field, when Chicago rallied twice from two-run deficits to claim a 6-5 victory over Cleveland.
The White Sox (29-23) pushed their lead over the Indians back up to 5 1/2 games, as they gutted out their second straight road series victory.
"It shows the true character of this ballclub," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team has won 11 of its last 14 games.
"From the first inning on, it was a battle," added White Sox closer Bobby Jenks of Wednesday's one-run victory, a game in which Jenks moved into third place on the franchise's all-time saves list by recording No. 101. "It really was a good team win."
Jenks perfectly described Wednesday's effort. Gavin Floyd allowed two runs in the first inning to Cleveland (24-29), marking the second straight day in which the White Sox have gotten off to a rough start, but battled back to keep their starter close for six innings.
Relievers Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink and Jenks each threw one scoreless inning, as the bullpen extended its streak to 24 innings without allowing an earned run, covering eight games. But Jenks' 14th save didn't come from the 1-2-3 variety.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Garko reached base via Joe Crede's 10th error to open the ninth, and moved to second when Grady Sizemore drew a walk. Jamey Carroll bunted the two runners over, but Ben Francisco popped out to first baseman Paul Konerko for the second out.
Guillen visited Jenks on the mound before facing Victor Martinez with first base open. Martinez lined a first-pitch single off of the White Sox closer on Monday, but Jenks won this particular battle when the catcher stranded both runners, popping out to shortstop Orlando Cabrera to end the game.
"We just went over it and he said, 'What do you want to do?' I said, 'We are going to go right after him,'" said Jenks of his talk with Guillen. "[Guillen] was worried because they were attacking the first pitch on Monday, so I changed my plan. I went with sinkers away, instead of trying to come back in on him.
"I'll tell you what, it was one of those days where it didn't matter how you got it done, as long as you got that third out," Jenks added.
Carlos Quentin delivered the game-winning hit during a three-run seventh off of reliever Rafael Betancourt, who himself was called in to relieve Rafael Perez. A.J. Pierzynski set the table for Quentin with an opposite-field double, his 999th career hit, pushing runners to second and third and cutting the lead to one. Quentin followed with a double just inside the left-field line to bring home Cabrera and Pierzynski, giving the loss to Betancourt (1-3).
A fifth-inning sacrifice fly, in which Alexei Ramirez hustled home on a short fly ball to Francisco in right field, raised Quentin's RBI total to 47. He maintained a stronghold on second place in the AL in that category, but as usual, Quentin deferred the credit to his teammates.
"Our bullpen did a great job," Quentin said. "Gavin settled down after a rough [first] inning, and he pitched well. He battled out there. A lot of guys got big hits and got on base, putting together hard-nosed, tough at-bats."
Floyd yielded four earned runs in total before exiting after six innings and 107 pitches, but also matched a career high with seven strikeouts. The right-hander improved to 5-3, setting a single-season best for victories in just the season's seventh week.
Pitching with renewed confidence, Floyd appears as a symbol for the rejuvenated White Sox in 2008. The hurler believes in his own ability, just as the White Sox believe in their chances to be a division winner.
"My main goal coming into today was to help us win this series," Floyd said. "Our hitters kept coming back after we got down. We did well in this series, and we have to carry that momentum into Tampa."
Four games against the Rays this weekend will be another good test for the White Sox, as they face off against the owners of baseball's best record. Though beating the Indians during six of their past seven matchups and pushing their record to 14-8 within the division means the most in the matter of bringing the AL Central title back to Chicago.
"As a team, this is where we want to be," Jenks said.
"To win this division, we have to beat teams in our own division," Guillen added. "So far, we play good against our own division. But this club is not the type to get cocky."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.