Defense plugs the holes in back of Quintana
Rally-killing plays maintain momentum in second straight victory
KANSAS CITY -- There was an eighth-inning rally executed by the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium that involved three hits off of White Sox relievers Jake Petricka and Zach Duke.
None of those hits left the infield and two of them barely rolled past the pitcher's mound. They all looked like line drives in the scorebook.
With runners on first and third and one out, pinch-hitter Mike Moustakas stood as the tying run at the plate against reliever Nate Jones. But the defense rose to the occasion, just as it had done previously during the White Sox 6-1 victory.
Pinch-runner Jarod Dyson broke for second on a 1-0 pitch and Moustakas hit a shot toward the spot vacated by shortstop Alexei Ramirez. But the ball wasn't hit too far away from the White Sox shortstop, who made a sliding catch of the grounder to his right and turned an inning-ending double play.
"You look at the eighth, not a lot of balls hit hard," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "They placed them perfectly, and then the one they hit hard, Alexei makes a nice play on. You have to have defense to be able to stay with these guys."
"Alexei had a great game today, and you know it's important to make those plays because it got pretty hairy there late," said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham, who had two hits in the club's third straight victory. "If we don't get one of those plays, and the play earlier up the middle that [Alcides] Escobar hit, then it's a real tight game."
Beckham was referring to a situation in the seventh, when the Royals had runners on second and third with two outs. Escobar hit a slow roller up the middle that Beckham gloved and threw to first to keep the Royals scoreless.
White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana allowed runners in scoring position during five of the seven innings he worked. But the southpaw did not give up a run, striking out five without a walk, and won for the first time in 17 career starts against the Royals.
"Q was hitting his spots all night. He's just a competitor," Beckham said. "More than anything, he just competes. That's what you want out there as a pitcher. Playing behind him is a lot easier because you know he's locked in and he's going to compete as well as he possibly can."
A strong dose of White Sox defense didn't hurt the victorious effort, with Jose Abreu throwing out Kendrys Morales at the plate in the second to help the White Sox escape a first-and-third, nobody-out situation. It was a play matched by Ramirez six innings later.
"One foot the other way, and it's a different game," said Ventura of the Ramirez play. "It changes the complexion of the game, but then again, one foot the other way and maybe some of those harder, we probably wouldn't have been in that situation. The game is strange, and luckily we came out on top."