Sox defense boosts Quintana in rubber-game win
Wells robs Braves' Johnson of game-tying, two-run homer in eighth
CHICAGO -- For a team that has struggled so much defensively in 2013, Sunday afternoon's 3-1 White Sox victory in the series finale against the Braves at U.S. Cellular Field had to be sweet.
In the eighth inning with one out and the tying run at the plate, Reed Johnson hit a deep drive to left field that Casper Wells caught as he leaped over the wall to take away a home run and preserve Chicago's two-run edge.
"I'm just glad we had enough real estate to work with," Wells said. "I was just tracking the ball and just jumped, and you know, luckily the ball was able to find my glove and I was still able to keep it in the ballpark."
Wells' sensational play was just one example of how the White Sox shined defensively. With the bases loaded in the third, Brian McCann hit a sharp ground ball in the hole between first and second, where second baseman Jeff Keppinger dove full-extension to snare it and throw McCann out at first.
The play enabled Sox starter Jose Quintana to escape his second-straight bases-loaded jam after Chicago scored in the first to spot him a 1-0 lead.
"It's really good considering our defense has been sort of weak throughout the season," Keppinger said. "It was good that our defense could pick us up and we could score enough runs to actually be on top of one of these games."
Keppinger said it was a matter of McCann being more likely to hit the ball to his left on how he was able to put himself in a position to make the play.
"You know, [McCann's] a pull hitter, he looks like he's trying to drive everything to right field," Keppinger said. "… I was anticipating something to be at me or to my left."
The sparkling defensive effort allowed Quintana (5-2) to earn a win despite leading the Majors in no-decisions with 13. Quintana labored effectively, working in and out of jams as Atlanta put 12 runners aboard against him in the first five innings. He yielded just the one run despite allowing nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out four.
"It was incredible," Quintana said through translator and White Sox coach Lino Diaz. "These things, they don't happen all the time. And the fact they happened today when I needed them, I got the help from very good defense today.
"I'm very happy to have it because more importantly the team won. When they play good defense, those are things that don't happen all the time, so you've got to feel happy about that."
The White Sox were able to push a run across in the first when Adam Dunn singled up the middle to plate Alejandro De Aza. In the second, De Aza was again in scoring position after doubling and advancing to third on a flyout. Alex Rios then blooped a single to right over the drawn-in infield, scoring De Aza to make it 2-0.
After Atlanta pushed across a run in the fifth, Dayan Viciedo plated an insurance run for Chicago with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Quintana had some issues with cramping in his legs in the fifth, but said he's never had that problem before and will make adjustments to his preparation for summer game days.
"This is the first time that has happened to me," he said. "When I have another day start, I definitely have to hydrate more and look for a way more than drinking water."
By taking two out of three, the White Sox last three series wins are victories over potential playoff teams, including the Tigers and the Orioles.
As for what amounts to a tough-luck loss in the rubber match Sunday, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said that as difficult as it is, that's just baseball.
"It's a cruel game at times, our game," he said. "Mikey [Minor] probably pitched the best game of the year. And he got nothing, he got an L. That's all he got. That's a shame. That's the way our game is."
Gonzalez lamented his club's missed opportunities -- despite a well-pitched effort by Minor (9-5) -- due to the defensive brilliance of the White Sox.
"Bases loaded in the second. Reed Johnson hit a rocket to the shortstop, double off there," he said. "McCann with the bases loaded, Keppinger made a nice play; that killed that inning."
For Gonzalez and his Braves, in the end it all came back to the catch by Wells.
"Then the ball in the eighth inning, Reed Johnson," Gonzalez said. "We still may have been playing that game."