Quentin helps White Sox stay on top

Quentin helps White Sox stay on top

MINNEAPOLIS -- After holding on to first place in the American League Central since May 17, and sitting atop the division for 101 days, the White Sox were not about to give up their lofty perch without a fight on Wednesday night.

It didn't matter that this particular contest came against the Twins, in the Metrodome and in the throes of a three-game losing streak.

Those facts certainly didn't matter to Carlos Quentin, once again the star on offense for the White Sox, during their 8-3 shellacking of Minnesota before the biggest crowd at the Metrodome since Opening Day. In fact, the highly focused and driven young outfielder doesn't exactly have 'Check out standings' at the top of his to-do list when he arrives at the ballpark.

"You could ask me and I still wouldn't know how much we are up by right now," said Quentin, following his fourth four-plus-RBI game and fifth three-hit effort of the 2008 season. "It's different for different people.

"Right now, it really doesn't matter because there are a significant amount of games to play. When we get down to the wire, I'll pay attention to the standings a little more. All I know is we are in a quality division, with quality teams. That's our main focus."

One of those quality teams resides in Minneapolis and had the chance to take over the AL Central lead with a third straight victory in this four-game set and fifth straight overall at home against the White Sox (60-46). Quentin needed three trips to the plate to end any thoughts of that rise to glory for the Twins (59-48).

With two outs in the opening inning, Quentin launched his American League-best 28th home run into the left-field stands off of Minnesota starter Livan Hernandez (10-8). Quentin flew out to medium-deep center, but had his chance to break the game open in the fourth with the bases loaded, two out and the White Sox leading by a 2-0 margin.

Quentin ripped the first pitch from Hernandez into the left-center-field gap, clearing the bases, and giving him 83 RBIs for the season. Hernandez, who played with Quentin in Arizona over the past two seasons, was as impressed as everyone else in the AL with the outfielder's breakout effort.

"He's a good hitter," said Hernandez, who allowed five runs on nine hits over four innings, before exiting after throwing 80 pitches. "He's got a great year. He's hot right now. Something you leave on the top of the plate. ... The first fastball I throw, he hit a home run on top of the plate, and then a slider too. You have to make a good pitch with the guy to get him out right now."

"This kid has done it all year long and carried this ballclub for a long time," added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Quentin, who raised his average to .279.

Alexei Ramirez added his ninth home run in the seventh inning off of reliever Boof Bonser, as the three-run shot coming with two outs all but put the game out of reach. In reality, Quentin's production would have stood up as more than enough with the way Gavin Floyd (11-6) pitched on Wednesday.

Entering his 21st start this season and without a win since July 5, Floyd gave up just one run on five hits over 7 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking one. He improved to 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA in four starts against the Twins this season.

"Whoever I'm facing, I believe in what I can do," said Floyd, when asked about his Minnesota dominance. "I've been working on getting my fastball command a little better, and today was one of those days where I was keeping the ball down and in the zone."

So, the White Sox live to see first place for a 102nd day and maybe beyond, if John Danks can top the Twins on Thursday and help the White Sox earn a four-game split. But going by a mantra Guillen's crew has lived by all year, the contest played on a given day is the most important one.

Wednesday's victory, behind Floyd, Quentin and Ramirez, not to mention two hits apiece from Nick Swisher, Jim Thome and A.J. Pierzynski, just happened to mean a little more on this particular evening.

"We need this game badly, for momentum for the ballclub and for enthusiasm," Guillen said. "This was a great win for us."

"Our team lost two games and the lead trickled down to one-half game and people start saying, 'Oh man, the Twins are coming back,'" Swisher added. "We don't think that way. There's still a lot of baseball left to be played. This series is huge but it's not the end of the world."

That statement rings especially true for a team that has grown accustomed to having everyone else chase it in the AL Central.

"We no take anything for granted. Just go out and play," said Guillen.

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