LIVE: Konerko, Ramirez RBIs give Sox lead

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LIVE: Konerko, Ramirez RBIs give Sox lead

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011
Posted: 9:51 a.m.

Associated Press

The Detroit Tigers aren't just cruising toward their first division championship since 1987. They're steaming toward that title with one of their longest win streaks in team history.

The Tigers will try to move a step closer to clinching the AL Central by winning 12 in a row for the first time since 1934 on Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox.

Detroit (86-62) reduced its magic number to four with a 5-0 win in Chicago on Tuesday, its 21st in 25 games. That victory marked the first time the Tigers had won 11 straight since Sept. 9-21, 1968, a season that ended with a World Series championship.

Detroit has produced at the plate and on the mound during its streak, batting .334 and averaging more than eight runs while posting a 2.36 ERA.

Miguel Cabrera is hitting .390 with 12 RBIs during the run, while Victor Martinez has driven in 17 in Detroit's last nine games.

"You look at the talent around this room, if everybody gets rolling it's going to be tough to beat us," pitcher Justin Verlander said after earning his MLB-best 23rd win Tuesday. "This last couple of weeks, it's been an example of that."

The Tigers haven't won 12 straight since a team record-tying 14-game run July 31-Aug. 14, 1934, but Brad Penny (10-10, 5.19 ERA) may not be the best candidate to help his team accomplish that feat.

The right-hander is 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA over his last nine starts and has allowed 19 runs - 15 earned - over 15 innings in his last three outings. Penny, however, got the win in an 8-4 victory over Minnesota on Friday after allowing four runs over five innings.

"(My teammates are) going to score a lot of runs," Penny said. "If you can keep them somewhat close, you've got a chance to win."

The Tigers have won all four of Penny's starts against the White Sox (73-74) this season, and he's 3-0 with a 3.80 ERA. However, he gave up eight runs - four earned - and 10 hits over five innings in the most recent matchup Sept. 3 and avoided a loss only when Detroit pulled off a stunning rally for a 9-8 victory.

The Tigers have won 20 of 26 over the White Sox, outscoring them 54-15 in five consecutive wins this month. They've also won 10 of 13 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Detroit will try to add to that success by spoiling the first career start for Dylan Axelrod (0-0, 0.00). The right-hander pitched two scoreless innings in relief against Minnesota in his major league debut last Wednesday.

"I'm definitely excited to get that chance. I want to go out there and see what I can do," Axelrod told the White Sox's official website. "It should be great."

Axelrod was 6-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 15 starts for Triple-A Charlotte before being recalled last week.

Alex Rios will try to help his rookie teammate by continuing his success against Penny. The outfielder is 13 for 21 with five doubles versus the right-hander in his career and 4 for 9 with one double this season.

Cabrera is batting .381 this season against the White Sox and is 9 for 20 with five doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in the past five matchups.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

White Sox catcher Kevan Smith has a ball after drawing first career walk

White Sox catcher Kevan Smith has a ball after drawing first career walk

Rookie Kevan Smith wanted his first career walk in the worst possible way on Tuesday night.

The White Sox catcher was so intent upon ending a lengthy walk drought to start his career that he determined to lean in against one of the hardest throwers in the league.

Ahead 3-0 in the count with one out in the ninth inning against New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, Smith inched closer to the plate. The four-pitch walk Smith drew in career plate appearance No. 130 not only ended the second longest walk-less streak to start a career since 1990, it also jumpstarted a game-winning White Sox rally. Smith was afforded plenty of time to enjoy the moment, too, as manager Rick Renteria immediately pulled him for a pinch runner.

“Oh yeah (I knew),” Smith said. “One hundred percent. I got way on the plate and was like, ‘You’re either going to hit me or walk me’ because I’m not letting this one slide. I’ve been to a few 3-0 counts, but finally got the first one out of the way. Everybody was laughing at me.

“It was a celebratory thing. I got to come off the field on my first one.”

Smith’s moment was worthy of a celebration.

Whereas Tim Anderson’s base on balls-free stretch to start his career got a ton of notoriety in 2016, Smith’s received almost none despite the fact that he soared past Anderson. A highly touted rookie known for his aggressive approach at the plate, people kept close tabs on Anderson’s stretch when he went 85 plate appearances without a walk to start his career. But Smith eclipsed that mark with a strikeout in his lone trip to the plate on June 9. It wasn’t until 44 plate appearances later that Smith could walk the walk.

Since 1990, only Jeff Francouer had gone longer among all major leaguers when he didn’t draw a free pass until his 131 plate appearance in 2005. Smith tied the Yankees’ Oscar Azocar (who walked in his 130th trip in 1990) when he ended the seventh inning with a strikeout against New York starting pitcher Luis Severino.

Other notable White Sox players with lengthy walk-less streaks to start their careers include: Jeff Abbott (84, 1997-98), Dayan Viciedo (83, 2010) and Josh Phegley (83, 2013).

“Dang,” Anderson said with a smile. “Nobody made a big deal about his though.”

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Similar to Anderson, Smith has always been fairly aggressive at the plate. His career walk-rate in the minor leagues is 8.7 percent (195 in 2,229 plate appearances). But that aggression hasn’t prevented Smith from finding offensive success during his third stint in the majors. After going 5-for-42 to start his career, Smith has heated up, hitting .313/.322/.422 with six doubles, one home run and eight RBIs in his last 87 plate appearances.

“The more at-bats he gets up here it's natural to start getting a little more comfortable,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He's certainly showing that he's able to do a few things at the plate. He's handling at-bats more a little more calmly.”

The calmer demeanor has helped Smith stick to an approach in which he has confidence. In seven minor league seasons, Smith carried a .285/.361/.449 slash line. He believes staying with what works will be the key to whether or not he can continue to perform.

“I think what makes guys successful up here is they stick to their approach,” Smith said. “I always use (Joe) Mauer as an example. He stays so true to his approach and looks for what he wants to hit that it’s almost frustrating as a catcher and a pitcher. But there’s a reason he’s been around for so long and I’m envious of what he does in the box. I’m just going to keep trying to get as comfortable as I can and strive for that approach each game and each at-bat.”

Confident Jose Quintana gets 'back to who he's always been'

Confident Jose Quintana gets 'back to who he's always been'

The White Sox said all along they were confident Jose Quintana would rebound and now that he has no seems the least bit surprised.

Quintana provided yet another round of proof that he’s far removed from those May woes when he silenced the New York Yankees on Tuesday night. While the left-hander earned a no decision, he was rewarded when the White Sox rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field. Quintana finished June with a 1.78 ERA.

“We have a very good relationship, very good communication,” teammate Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “When (Quintana) was passing through that, the first two months, I let him know, just keep your confidence, don’t hesitate, do your job, keep working hard because we have confidence in you. Now he’s just showing us what he’s capable of doing and doing what he’s been doing his whole career. We’re glad he’s the same Jose Quintana he’s been the last couple of years.”

Quintana has gone from a period where many of his mistakes got hit to a spot where he’s been borderline untouchable. He limited the second-best offense in the American League to two hits and four walks in 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Tuesday. With good fastball command and a sharp curve, Quintana had New York hitters out of whack.

This is a much different pitcher than the one who was tagged by the Boston Red Sox on May 30, an outing after which he said he was embarrassed. Since losing to Boston, Quintana has lowered his ERA from 5.30 to 4.37. In that span, Quintana has allowed 21 hits and six earned runs with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.

“Sometime bad games are going to happen,” Quintana said. “But when it happens, I go check the video to see if I’m doing something wrong and try to make adjustments. But I feel pretty good and I have my confidence high and for me I turn the page and focus on the next one.”

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The 2016 All-Star thrived in the few instances when he got into trouble on Tuesday.

He struck out Tyler Austin with two men in scoring position to end the fourth inning and erased a leadoff walk in the fifth with an Austin Romine double play. After Quintana surrendered a two-out double to Judge in the sixth inning, he got Sanchez to pop out to strand the tying run.

Quintana only threw strikes on 55 of 101 pitches on Tuesday. But, of those 55, 10 were swings and misses.

“It's just been him commanding the zone, attacking,” manager Rick Renteria said. “A lot more strikes. He still had some at-bats today where he got to 3-2, but then he'd execute, he'd finish and make a pitch that induced a very weak fly ball or groundballs. That's who he is, I mean you all have seen him like this before. For us it's just seeing him get back to who he's always been.”