Jul 21, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza (30) slides in safe at third base under the tag of Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson (23) in the third inning at US Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
This season has been all about everything falling apart. The White Sox’ traditional ability to play above their projections, duck injuries and stay in races they have no business being in have all ebbed away from them this year, among many other things. But in closing up an improbable series victory over the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, fortune smiled on the Sox once more, as they simply out-executed a likely playoff team in a 3-1 victory.
Or they just got a little lucky.
Limiting a team with the second-best offense in the National League to a single run while allowing 14 baserunners took some undeniable defensive virtuosity, which just so happened to come from Jeff Keppinger and Casper Wells. Again, maybe it was luck.
With the bases juiced for Brian McCann in the third inning, a flagging Jose Quintana, dealing with craps and wildness all day, allowed a line shot to the right side with easy two-run potential. It was at that moment that 33 year-old, known more for his willingness to play every infield position than his capability, laid out like a beach mat to nab the grounder off the bounce and flipped exhaustedly it to Adam Dunn in time to end the frame.
In a more banal setting with a runner on first in the eighth, Nate Jones hung a slider to Reed Johnson. While it didn’t sound like grave trouble off the bat, it sent Casper Wells–playing left while Dayan Viciedo DH’d–backpeddling to the warning track. Only Wells suddenly changed directions upon reaching the track, twisting and spinning around in the classic indicator of a confused outfielder, before leaping and slamming back-first into the wall with his glove placed just above the yellow line, ball firmly in his grasp.
Arguably, Quintana was still in the most trouble in the second inning, when an infield single by Evan Gattis glanced off his glove to load the bases with two outs. A gutsy, 3-2 high fastball struck out Dan Uggla before Johnson lined into a double play to Alexei Ramirez, who caught McCann drifting off the bag at second.
These types of escape-movie heroics were required behind Quintana, who walked three batters and yielded nine hits over 5.2 innings, and prompted two health-related mound visits for leg cramps. Hopefully he’s ok. In the mean time, he lowered his ERA.
The White Sox offense on the other hand, manage to coax three runs out of Mike Minor, who went all eight innings for the Braves and struck out a batter per frame, through a combination of batted ball luck and splendid timing. Alejandro De Aza led off the game with a walk, advanced on a wild pitch, and scooted around to score on a ball that Adam Dunn bounced through the middle against an extremely shifted infield. No loud contact, yet there was a run.
Two innings later, De Aza turned a standard-issue line-drive to center into a hustle-double when Johnson shaded him too far to the left. Despite looking gimpy pulling into second, De Aza advanced to third on a flyout despite a tremendous throw from Justin Upton in right, and finally scored when Alex Rios blooped a ball over Dan Uggla’s head in the shortest of short right field. One incidence of semi-loud contract, and another run.
More running brought the last run of the game in the sixth, when Alex Rios followed up a bouncer through the middle by stealing his 20th base of the season, moved to third on a Dunn groundball to the right side and scored on a medium-distance Viciedo fly ball to center. Could any of this be regarded as hard contact? An irrelevant question. Runs are too rare to be dissected.
Diving stabs on defense, scoring that’s dependent on speed and taking advantage of weak-armed centerfielders, are typically not enough to make things work on a day-in, day-out basis. But when they are, it makes the game feel so poetic, the product of hard work and execution rather than simple brawn, that it’s easy to see the appeal.
Team Record: 39-56
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