Denorfia's acrobatic catch lifts Ross to sixth victory
Righty finishes May with a 2.08 ERA, improves to 6-4 on season
CHICAGO -- There were any number of ways to describe Chris Denorfia's headfirst, diving grab of a soft liner in the fourth inning Saturday, a catch that saved two runs from scoring.
Denorfia's manager, Bud Black, was the first to give it a shot:
"Really good is an understatement," Black said.
Tyson Ross, the pitcher who allowed the batted ball, admitted to holding his breath as Denorfia, playing in right field, closed fast on the ball.
"That was," Ross said, "a great catch."
As for Denorfia, he had another term, one far less eloquent to describe his catch that proved to be an important turn in the Padres' 4-2 victory over the White Sox before a crowd of 19,025 at U.S. Cellular Field.
"It was awkward," he admitted.
However you want to describe it, whatever you want to call it, Denorfia's catch of Tyler Flowers' ball to end the fourth inning with two runners on, coupled with strong pitching by Ross and a few well-timed hits, were all the Padres (26-30) needed to win for the second time in as many days.
Ross (6-4) didn't always have his best stuff but he still allowed one earned run over six innings with big help again from the bullpen. Ross allowed five hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
"It was a battle today. They're a good hitting team. I wasn't very comfortable [facing them]. I just didn't have the sharpest command today," Ross said.
With the Padres leading 3-1 in the fourth inning, the White Sox (28-29) got a one-out single by Alexei Ramirez and, later, a two-out walk from their No. 8 hitter, Alejandro De Aza, to put pressure on Ross.
That's when Ross buckled down and made the pitch he wanted to Flowers, a slider down and away, a pitch that would have been tough for any right-handed hitter to do much with.
"It was the pitch I wanted, but sometimes they reach out and something like that finds a hole," Ross said.
This one nearly did, though Denorfia -- who entered the game in the top of the third inning when Cameron Maybin left with tightness in his right calf -- raced in to make a difficult grab.
"I actually had just scooted in a couple of pitches before when there was two strikes," Denorfia said. "Off the end of the bat, you never know. It's a tough visual, a day game with the crowd."
Given his preference, Denorfia would have slid and played the ball off to one side or the other. This time, though, he didn't have time as his only option was a tumbling, sprawling grab.
"The dismount, if you will, is much harder," he said. "It's a lot easier to get hurt. I usually like to catch it off to one side. It really didn't hurt, other than I smashed my face pretty good when my glasses pressed into my head."
Denorfia's catch, Ross' arm and another strong performance from the bullpen -- Nick Vincent, Joaquin Benoit and closer Huston Street -- were enough to secure the team's first consecutive wins since May 13.
Ross finished May with a 2.08 ERA in six starts, allowing one earned run in five of those six starts. His ERA for the season stands at 2.85.
"I faced him quite a bit when I was with Arizona. He's got kind of a funky, quick delivery. He's got good stuff," White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton said.
The Padres had 10 hits and their hitters took seven walks in the game. Will Venable tied his career-high with four hits and knocked in two runs.
"We're seeing a little bit of an uptick in our offense," Black said. "We're getting closer to where they need to be. The collective at-bats, on balance have been better."
The Padres' two-run margin of victory might have been a whole lot greater had they fared better on the bases in this one.
• In the second inning, Venable was caught in a rundown between third and home that resulted in an out. Rene Rivera later hit an RBI double that could have easily produced two runs.
• One inning later, Carlos Quentin was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second when Venable singled to center field.
• With a runner on first base and no outs in the fifth inning, Chase Headley lined out on a ball that turned into a double play. It happened again in the ninth inning to Everth Cabrera.
• On separate occasions, Cabrera and Seth Smith were thrown out trying to steal second by Flowers, the White Sox catcher.
Aside from Denorfia's catch, there was little drama to be had. Ross retired the last four hitters that he faced. Vincent struck out the side in the seventh and Benoit went 1-2-3 in the eighth.
Street got two outs and then walked De Aza before getting Flowers on a grounder to end the game, securing his 17th save of the season.
"All in all, it was a well-pitched game from the 'pen," Black said.