Near-perfect Floyd fans 11 Red Sox
Righty carries Chicago to its fourth consecutive victory
CHICAGO -- The perfect game had just come to an end for Gavin Floyd, as well as his bid for a no-hitter, on Nick Green's clean single to center in the sixth after the right-hander retired 17 consecutive Red Sox hitters. But the fun was just beginning for Floyd in this particular moment of Saturday's 5-1 victory for the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
After setting down Jacoby Ellsbury on a ground ball to second baseman Chris Getz, exiting the sixth with his three-run lead intact, there was Mark Buehrle waiting for Floyd in the White Sox dugout.
"He's joked around before like, 'You need to learn how to finish them.' And I started laughing," said Floyd of his encounter with the man who hurled the Majors' 18th perfect game on July 23. "He didn't say anything. He just looked at me in the dugout, and I go, 'Oh, Mr. Perfect knows how to finish them.'
"Just giving him a hard time. It was pretty funny. Just a little joke."
Boston (78-57) found nothing remotely humorous in regard to the utter control shown by Floyd (11-9) on the mound. Floyd set a career high by fanning 11 without giving up a single free pass, and he matched his season high in innings pitched by working eight for the fifth time.
Floyd's excellence, losing his shutout on Jason Bay's solo home run leading off the eighth, pushed the White Sox (68-69) back within one game of .500 and to their fourth consecutive victory. This winning streak stands as the team's longest since capturing seven straight from June 27-July 3.
And if the White Sox want to dream the improbable dream of catching the Tigers, although they sat seven games behind Detroit in the American League Central entering Saturday's action, they will need more stellar starts as turned in by Floyd.
"Their guy was just dominant," said Boston manager Terry Francona of Floyd. "Slider, cutter, fastball, change. He had everything. He just kind of carved us up."
"Big performance from Gavin," said White Sox right fielder Mark Kotsay, who started the 2009 campaign with the Red Sox and is familiar with the potency of their lineup. "He kept those guys off-balance all day. You have a great lineup over there, one through nine, and it's a job well done."
While the Red Sox couldn't really touch Floyd for 5 2/3 innings, minus a slick running catch by Kotsay of a Kevin Youkilis line drive to open the fifth, the White Sox jumped out in the first on Tim Wakefield (11-4). Scott Podsednik singled and swiped second base, holding there as pinch-hitter Jayson Nix drew a walk.
Nix replaced Gordon Beckham, who exited in the bottom of the first due to soreness in his right side. A.J. Pierzynski laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, and Paul Konerko singled home Podsednik and Nix. Konerko added his 25th home run with one out in the eighth, giving him seven seasons with at least 25 long balls and nine with at least 80 RBIs.
Getz's single scored Konerko to complete the three-run first, giving Floyd a little bit of an early cushion. He wouldn't need anything more to win for his first time since Aug. 15.
"Over the last couple of years, Mark Buehrle has been our ace, but this kid has been consistent since we handed him the ball," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Floyd, who threw 67 of his 106 pitches for strikes. "Every time he goes out there, you're going to see good stuff."
"He pitched totally different than what he did up in Boston," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz of Floyd, who struck out Big Papi three times on Saturday. "He was throwing a lot of sliders, good ones, and was locating his slider. That's hard to do, and he was doing it well."
Wakefield and Floyd actually matched up on Aug. 26 at Fenway Park, with both pitchers receiving no-decisions. Ortiz launched a walk-off shot against Tony Pena to finish off a 3-2 victory and contribute to the White Sox dismal 3-8 four-city road trip.
This is a different White Sox team, though, during the four-game winning streak. It's hitting in the clutch, playing great defense and receiving dominant starts from veterans such as Floyd and rookies such as Carlos Torres.
Momentum really began to swing for the White Sox with their stunning four-run ninth inning comeback off Twins closer Joe Nathan on Wednesday, avoiding their sixth consecutive loss despite being down to their last strike twice. It gave the South Siders a glimmer of hope as to how a big September comeback was not totally out of the question.
"We have some momentum, definitely," said Kotsay, who hit his third home run of the year in the sixth. "The confidence is a lot higher than it was on that last road trip. It's a large part in due to the success of that last game in Minnesota. We carried the momentum and hopefully continue to play good baseball."
Minnesota stayed one game ahead of Chicago for second with a win in Cleveland on Saturday, while Detroit topped Tampa Bay to maintain its seven-game lead over the White Sox. Chicago certainly needs help to win the AL Central, but the only help the Sox focused on for the moment was provided by Floyd.
"Coaches and managers always worry about when you throw a no-hitter, and all of a sudden, somebody gets a base hit," Guillen said. "A lot of people go down after that. The next guy was out and he was cruising. He had a no-hitter, a perfect game, to the sixth against a good hitting ballclub. That's not easy."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.