Cintron's heroics propel White Sox

Cintron's heroics propel White Sox

CHICAGO -- The latest blessing for Juan Uribe and his family turned out to be a major contributing cause in one of the White Sox biggest wins of 2006 on Tuesday night before the 14th sellout of the year at U.S. Cellular Field.

Uribe was scheduled to assume his usual starting position at shortstop for the series opener against Detroit and left-handed starter Nate Robertson. But when Uribe's pregnant wife went into labor, he was scratched a few hours before game time, and Alex Cintron took over.

That's right, the same Alex Cintron who hit a three-run home run off of Fernando Rodney (4-2) with one out in the eighth inning, erasing a two-run deficit and giving the White Sox a 4-3 victory over the American League Central leaders to the delight of 37,192 frenzied fans. The victory moved the White Sox (35-22) to within 1 1/2 games of the Tigers (37-21), but more importantly, it continued a dominant run for the World Series champions over the team they are chasing.

Ozzie Guillen's crew has won all four of its games against Detroit in 2006, and it has a six-game winning streak when facing the Tigers dating back to 2005. Factoring in the last 20 head-to-head matchups between the two, the White Sox have an amazing 16-4 record.

Yet, after the White Sox 16th comeback victory of the season, Guillen was far from prepared to anoint his recently struggling squad as in control of the rivalry or the team to beat.

"It's always great when you win, especially that way," Guillen said. "I think from my point of view, we should have more runs than we did. We are still missing the little thing. I know it's a nice win, coming back that way against them, but we went to the last inning because we didn't execute as well."

Actually, the White Sox waited until their second-to-last at-bat before cashing in on one of their countless scoring opportunities. The South Siders had a runner on third with one out in the first, but Jim Thome struck out swinging and Paul Konerko flied out to left.

In the seventh, thanks in part to second baseman Placido Polanco's error on Scott Podsednik's apparent double-play grounder, the White Sox loaded the bases with one out. But hard-throwing reliever Joel Zumaya struck out Thome swinging once again and induced Konerko's fly out to center to protect the 3-1 lead. Detroit had built that particular advantage on solo home runs from Marcus Thames, Chris Shelton and Brandon Inge off of Freddy Garcia, who threw 118 pitches over six innings, but seemingly gave the White Sox every opportunity to get back into the game.

"You know what? We were frustrated, but we aren't going to quit," said White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye, who hit his 17th home run in the second inning. "We are having tough times moving runners over and getting guys in from third. But we are going to keep battling, because we know it's not going to be easy."

"My big boys fail in one inning, but that's why we have to count on everybody," Guillen added. "The guys who make the difference don't have to be Jim, Dye or Konerko every night."

Cintron's inability to execute a sacrifice bunt with runners on first and second and nobody out in the second actually stuck in the shortstop's mind as he came to bat in the eighth. Dye and Joe Crede were already on base via free passes, and Cintron worked the count to 3-2 against Rodney.

After fouling off a changeup, a pitch Cintron was looking for, Cintron sat on a fastball for the seventh and final pitch of the at-bat. He launched a lined shot into the right-field stands for his first home run as a member of the White Sox and his first long ball since Sept. 22, 2005, against the Dodgers.

"[Rodney] threw middle-in, and the best shot I have to hit a home run is middle-in," Cintron said. "I was just looking for a hit, not a home run."

"You never know when you're going to be in a situation to get a big hit for your club," added Thome, who finished 1-for-3 in his first game back after missing the Texas series with a sore left groin. "His hard work paid off."

Hard work from Garcia limited the Tigers to just three runs over six innings, despite the right-hander allowing eight hits and three walks. It was Brandon McCarthy, though, who gave the White Sox a viable chance to rally with two hitless innings of relief, striking out two.

Bobby Jenks closed out the game with his 16th save in 17 opportunities. He broke off a nasty curve on a 1-2 pitch to strike out Inge, fanned Curtis Granderson on a 3-2 fastball and induced Polanco's weak ground ball to Cintron to finish off the series opener. Much like the rest of the team, Jenks took his performance energetically in stride.

"The first couple times, yeah, it's exciting being able to do that," Jenks said. "For the most part, it's just getting outs."

When asked in the postgame press conference, Guillen wasn't sure if Uribe's wife had given birth to the family's newest addition. Guillen quipped that he hoped the new baby would wake up the struggling Uribe, with another mouth to feed.

As Guillen said, though, if one of his main guys isn't ready for some reason, there's always someone in reserve ready to go. On Tuesday, it was Cintron's turn to re-charge the White Sox.

"This should get us going, hopefully," Konerko said. "It's the team we're chasing, it's a divisional team -- it's big. It's starting to get to be summer, and we need those wins."

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