CHICAGO -- Almost no Major League Baseball team can string together eight consecutive wins, as the White Sox now have done following Wednesday's 4-2 victory over the Braves after a one-hour, 49-minute rain delay at U.S. Cellular Field, based purely on raw talent.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
With the White Sox holding onto a 3-2 lead in the sixth, Chipper Jones singled to open the frame off Mark Buehrle (6-6) and Brian McCann followed one out later with a double to left-center. The ball rolled around near the wall as center fielder Alex Rios tried to retrieve it, and Jones seemed like a sure bet to score the game-tying run from first.
But third-base coach Brian Snitker held Jones before shortstop Alexei Ramirez even had the ball in his possession for the relay throw. That decision ended up being an important one, as Buehrle pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation without allowing a single run.
This kind of situation plays out in your favor when a team feels as if it can't be defeated, as the White Sox do presently.
"I've always said this game is so much luck," said Buehrle, who allowed two runs on nine hits over six innings, striking out four and walking one.
The southpaw improved to 23-6 lifetime in Interleague Play, the highest victory total for any pitcher, and raised his ledger to 9-0 with a 1.73 ERA in his last 12 Interleague starts. While Buehrle was battling through his third straight victory on the mound, Carlos Quentin continued his torrid stretch at the plate.
Quentin broke a 1-1 deadlock in the fourth with a two-run home run to right off Tim Hudson (7-3). The White Sox actually entered the frame without a baserunner against the Atlanta ace, but Omar Vizquel's one-out walk and Paul Konerko's two-out single scored the team's first run. Quentin's 10th home run came on a 1-0 pitch, just barely getting over Jason Heyward's leaping attempt and bouncing off the top of the wall.
"You know, I hit it hard," said Quentin of what turned out to be the game-winner. "I just wanted it to get over his head. It got out and that was a plus."
"I said a couple of days ago, the last road trip and I said it last night, if Carlos continues to swing the bat the way he is right now, this ballclub will be different, way different," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He got the big hits for us."
If the fourth inning home run was considered a big hit, then Quentin's home run off Hudson leading off the seventh would be considered the perfect insurance marker.
"His second homer, I probably could have hit that one out of the park," said Hudson of Quentin. "I got in a little bit of a jam right there in the fourth inning. He hit a good pitch. I thought the wind might have helped it a little bit. But he's a strong guy."
Buehrle made plenty of good pitches to avoid serious damage. Atlanta (42-30) scored on Melky Cabrera's two-out single in the second, but then stranded runners on second and third with one out in the fifth after David Ross' bloop single made it a 3-2 ballgame. In this instance, Buehrle fanned Martin Prado and Heyward swinging.
Then came the fateful sixth, when the Braves loaded the bases for Cabrera. Buehrle induced a popup to second baseman Gordon Beckham for the second out and retired Omar Infante on a popup to Konerko in foul territory to end the rally.
Let's go back to that good fortune theory for a moment, though. Along with Jones not scoring on the double, Buehrle readily admitted getting away with a pitch to Infante.
"He should have crushed the 2-1 change I threw," said Buehrle with a smile. "It wasn't that great of a pitch, and he pops it up foul. If luck was not going our way, he probably hits a double in that situation and we go on to lose the game.
"Early on in the season, I would get in jams like that and not get out of them. It's like our season has turned around."
Pitching coach Don Cooper visited Buehrle prior to facing Cabrera, and the White Sox showed great confidence by letting him stay in the contest. The move paid off, as the White Sox won for the 12th time in 13 games and moved two over .500 for the first time since Aug. 23, 2009, when they were 63-61.
They also improved to 12-2 in Interleague action, with a 27-8 mark in their last 35 games against the National League. Most importantly, the White Sox have made up six games on the Twins in the American League Central since June 8, now sitting just 3 1/2 games out of first and two games behind the Tigers.
As long as that good luck matches the team's strong play, the White Sox could move into first place before the All-Star break with the way they are going and feeling.
"We are not going to win every game," Buehrle said. "We just need to try to stay on this roll. Everybody is confident right now."
"It's just a team that got some breaks and had a little bit of luck on their side," countered Hudson of the White Sox. "Teams that are hot get that sometimes. I feel like we should have won."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.