White Sox lumber, defense knock off Halos

White Sox lumber, defense knock off Halos

CHICAGO -- Two fence-clearing blasts by Carlos Quentin during the White Sox 9-2 drubbing of the Angels on Monday at U.S. Cellular Field set off belated Fourth of July fireworks for the jubilant crowd of 38,092, marking the fifth sellout of the season.

It was Quentin's defensive gem in the first inning, though, which truly set the tone for the club's 15th win in its last 19 games.

"To me, the best thing we had today, even though we scored a lot of runs, was the play he made in the outfield in the first inning," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Quentin's diving catch to rob Torii Hunter of extra bases and the Angels of their first run.

"He gave us a pump, fire in the dugout," Guillen said. "I'm not going to say it was the best thing I ever saw, but that was tough out there."

Guillen wouldn't be off the mark to classify Quentin's catch as one of the best he's witnessed this season, right up close to Mark Buehrle's amazing Opening Day, between-the-legs glove toss. Howard Kendrick was on second with two outs when Hunter ripped a drive to right destined for extra bases.

Quentin broke back quickly and caught the baseball with a dive to his left, toward the line, holding onto the ball as his left shoulder took the brunt of the fall on the warning track. After the White Sox third victory in four games against the American League West's finest, Quentin remained as understated as usual about his individual effort.

"That was one of the more painful ones," said Quentin of the catch. "The track is pretty hard and got some rocks out there. But I was just happy to keep them from scoring a run in the first inning. It sets the tone. From there, Gavin [Floyd] was great."

"Defense is overshadowed by offense and pitching," Guillen said. "A lot of people don't look at defense. To me, defense is more important than anything else. That helps your pitching staff. That helps a lot of things. Not just in today's game."

Defense was an especially strong asset in Monday's win. Alexei Ramirez, who homered off Scott Kazmir (7-8) in the first inning to give the White Sox (43-38) a 1-0 lead, took a hit away from Kevin Frandsen in the second, finished by a Paul Konerko tag at first base. In the third, Konerko made a slick pickup of Erick Aybar's hard-hit grounder down the line, stepped on first and doubled up Bobby Wilson with a perfect throw to Ramirez standing at second.

Floyd (4-7) and the explosive offense brought it home from there. Floyd won back-to-back starts for the first time since July of last season, giving up one run on five hits over seven innings, fanning four and walking two.

Monday's effort gave Floyd a 2-1 mark with a 1.27 ERA in his last six starts.

"This guy has been pitching well and nothing has come up for him," Guillen said. "Tonight, we helped him."

"I'm just trying to focus on each start," Floyd said. "I mean you just kind of go out there with an open mind and try to commit to pitches and pitch with conviction out there and whatever happens, happens."

The long ball happened for the White Sox. Quentin's two-out, two-run shot in the sixth followed Konerko's run-scoring single to lengthen the White Sox lead to four runs. Quentin added a solo shot in the eighth, his 15th, and Dayan Viciedo launched his first career home run in the seventh.

"Whatever it takes for the team to win, that's what I will do," said Viciedo, through translator and bench coach Joey Cora. "I feel happy I had a good game and hopefully I have continued success the rest of the way."

Defeating the Angels (46-39) allowed the White Sox to keep pace with first-place Detroit, staying one game behind the Tigers in the American League Central. The White Sox also moved within one-half game of the idle Twins.

Starting pitchers for the South Siders are 15-5 with a 2.58 ERA and 23 quality starts in their last 25 games. The offense is hitting at a .335 clip with runners in scoring position over the last 24 games, and the defense ...

Well, the defense played behind Floyd on Monday put an already tired Angels squad completely to rest, starting with Quentin's diving marvel.

"We were sleepwalking today," Hunter said. "Gavin pitched a great game. Even when you're not sleepwalking, he's nasty. Just imagine facing him when you are getting in at 5 in the morning, you can't sleep, you have to go to sleep at 6:30, you try to get rest and come here to play. It's pretty tough."

"Sometimes in that situation the ball hooks away, but it stayed straight enough for me," said Quentin, delving deeper into the catch. "I was playing him deep because Torii has power to all fields and he's a great hitter. It stayed straight, and we went to the clubhouse."

Over the next six games, the White Sox would like to stay straight on the victorious path and possibly hold down an AL Central lead at the All-Star break.

"There are a lot of things clicking and a lot of little things helping. That's what I expected from the beginning of the season," Guillen said. "I thought we would have that all year long. Unfortunately, we started very bad. Now we are starting to play better."

"We're playing good baseball," Floyd said. "We're feeding off each other and just trying to go out there and have fun and play good ball."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.