White Sox escape Cleveland with win
Long balls, Vazquez's strong work keep Chicago atop division
CLEVELAND -- The White Sox ability to call their nine-game road trip a success vanished long before Wednesday's first pitch at Progressive Field.But after Chicago snapped out of a two-game funk that had manager Ozzie Guillen calling his team "tired" and "dead," Guillen kicked back in his chair, talked about how tired he was before putting a realistic spin on the White Sox 4-2 feel-good win over the Indians. "I'm not going to call this road trip good because we won this one, because it wasn't," Guillen said of the team's 4-5 mark on the trip. "This will just be good to have a day off and go back home [from] a long road trip with a win. "We needed this one." The White Sox sit atop the American League Central, a game in front of the Twins, who lost in Toronto on Wednesday night. Chicago remains four games behind Boston in the AL Wild Card. But with 23 games to go and three important ones against the Twins down the road, the White Sox really didn't have to beat the Indians to avoid a three-game sweep. Or did they? "It was huge," catcher Toby Hall said. "We were in a little funk. Our guys came in and helped us out." The guys Hall spoke of included himself, as the White Sox numerous nagging injuries came to a head Wednesday, resulting in a lineup Guillen never expected to use and one he will likely never use again. It wasn't ragtag by any means, but a good chunk of its regular characters were missing in action. Ken Griffey Jr. (sore lower back), Carlos Quentin (sore right forearm) and Joe Crede (lower back tightness) were all unavailable, while left-handed-hitting veterans A.J. Pierzynski and Jim Thome had the day off against southpaw Jeremy Sowers. "Those guys, when the big boys aren't there, this isn't an instructional league. They have to come out and perform," Guillen said. "I was happy with what I saw, but hopefully we can get healthy." Javier Vazquez's performance was nowhere near his best, but it was desperately needed. After two consecutive short outings from Chicago starters, Vazquez gave the White Sox six quality innings to pick up his 11th win of the season. "Everybody has a job to do," said Vazquez, who struck out five and walked just one. "The starters know what their job is, but sometimes that's not going to happen. It's good when we pick each other up." Vazquez took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Shin-Shoo Choo slapped a single past a diving Orlando Cabrera. Vazquez's only blemish came with two outs in the sixth inning, when Jhonny Peralta lifted a two-out, two-run double over outfielder Jermaine Dye, whose thunderous crash into the right-field wall went unrewarded. By then, though, the White Sox had already done enough damage with their old friend, the long ball. Sowers matched Vazquez early on, retiring the first nine White Sox in order. But Chicago got to him in the fifth inning, when Nick Swisher launched his 23rd home run of the year over the left-field wall -- giving the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Cabrera added an RBI double to make it 2-0. Alexei Ramirez gave Vazquez some breathing room in the sixth inning when he dug out a low-and-inside full-count pitch and drove it into the left-center-field bleachers for a two-run homer. It was the wiry second baseman's 16th home run of the year and the White Sox Major League-leading 201st of the season. The shot gave Chicago a 4-0 lead. With Vazquez out after six innings because of a high pitch count, that lead didn't appear safe until Bobby Jenks struck out Asdrubal Cabrera to lock up his 28th save of the season. Octavio Dotel and Matt Thornton escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning before Guillen was forced to bring in Jenks with one out and two runners on in the eighth inning. "We gambled with Jenks," Guillen said. "Last time I did it was in the World Series. I don't like to do that, but that's the situation we were in." Jenks made Guillen look like a card shark, inducing a 5-4-3 double play on his second pitch to Ryan Garko. He made quick work of the Tribe in the ninth -- thanks to another ground-ball double play -- to make the 1 2/3-innings outing one of his least strenuous. "If I could go out there and do that in 10 pitches every time," Jenks said, "it'd be really nice." Results such as Wednesday's would be nice every time out, too. But the White Sox know it's not going to be anywhere near as easy the final three weeks of the season. "If we want to get to the playoffs, we have to win," Vazquez said. "I guess every game this month, we're going to be in a battle with Minnesota."
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.