"Today, this game was about pitching and defense," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of his team's airtight effort in the field and on the mound. "Put those two things together and you are always going to give your team an opportunity to win.
"We know about the big home runs, and [Jayson] Nix had an unbelievable game. But pitching and defense, those two combined, were keys to the game."
Nix produced the first multihomer game of his career, giving him four for the season, but the story of this night begins with the White Sox (21-24) flashing a little leather. They made no less than six stellar plays in support of Colon (3-4).
This golden glovework started with left fielder Scott Podsednik gunning down Torii Hunter trying to move from second to third on Kendry Morales' flyout after Hunter's leadoff double in the second. It was immediately followed by second baseman Nix's diving stop up the middle on Juan Rivera's grounder and ensuing throw to first baseman Paul Konerko to end the frame.
Konerko started a slick 3-6-3 double play after Chone Figgins opened the fourth with a single, and shortstop Alexei Ramirez made stellar plays on ground balls to end the fifth and open the sixth. In the eighth, with the White Sox clinging to a 3-1 lead, Bobby Abreu hit a hard two-out shot to Ramirez with Erick Aybar and Figgins moving from second and first, respectively, on the pitch.
Ramirez made the slick play but threw low to Konerko, who made the pick to end the rally.
"We all did it together," said Nix of the defense. "It was a good team effort."
"Absolutely," said Colon, through interpreter and bullpen coach Juan Nieves. "Great plays behind me."
Colon defeated one of his former teams, the Angels' organization for whom he won the American League Cy Young Award in 2005, by working efficiently within the strike zone. He allowed one run on Abreu's first home run of the season to open the seventh, but gave up only three more hits and didn't issue a walk over 6 2/3 innings. Colon fanned three in improving to 7-5 against the Angels and 5-1 as a visitor at Angel Stadium.
It was quite a comeback for the burly right-hander, who gave up eight runs over two innings last Thursday as part of a 20-1 loss to the Twins. In fairness to Colon, only one of those runs was earned, but it was a disaster not dwelled upon by the veteran.
"From the moment I gave the ball to [Guillen], when I came out of the game, that's the last time I thought about that game," Colon said. "I was preparing and getting ready for Los Angeles, and now I'll get ready and prepared for Oakland."
"During those few really bad games he had for us, Bartolo was all over the place and couldn't command," said Guillen. "He threw a lot of strikes, with a lot of movement, sinkers and cutters. He was better today because he even threw a couple of sliders in big situation. Before the game today, he was really about fastballs."
Nix launched his first home run off of Joe Saunders (6-3) with two outs in the fifth for a 1-0 White Sox lead and led off the seventh with his fourth long ball of the season. The White Sox second baseman had faced Saunders in Triple-A competition and knew what to expect from the left-hander.
Konerko and Jermaine Dye each drove in a run and knocked out two hits, but the H for hitting was lowercase in this victory. Matt Thornton threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, and with closer Bobby Jenks unable to go because of the flu, Scott Linebrink picked up his first save of the season despite Hunter's ninth-inning home run.
Linebrink retired the tying run in Mike Napoli on a popout to second baseman Chris Getz. The at-bat closed out the White Sox first series victory over the Angels (23-22) at Angel Stadium since May 4-6, 2007, and marked their third straight series win after losing four straight to the Blue Jays.
More top-notch pitching and defense exhibited by the White Sox on Tuesday should lead to a greater number of W's as the 2009 season progresses.
"There are a lot of games left to play, and I think it's too early to tell. But I think the best of this team has yet to be seen," Linebrink said. "We had a bad run in Toronto the last few years, so you take that series with a grain of salt and know we can bounce back. There are going to be more ups and down along the way, but it was important for us to come back with the great homestand and a good start here."