Eighth-inning efforts solidify Sox win over Braves

Eighth-inning efforts solidify Sox win over Braves

July 21, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Alex Ruppenthal

The White Sox bullpen hollered at him, and the fans at U.S. Cellular Field stood and cheered as Casper Wells jogged to the dugout. They knew Wells had just saved the game, but he didn’t.

Wells reached over the left-field wall to rob Reed Johnson of a game-tying home run in the eighth inning Sunday in a 3-1 White Sox win against Atlanta. Despite the ovation he received, Wells didn’t know the ball would have gone over the fence until he saw the replay.

“I didn't know at first,” Wells said. “I was just glad I caught it, you know. And then I saw the replay and I was like, ‘Wow, that, you know, that was really special.’ I never did anything like that before.”

He was also clueless to his position on the field as he ran back on Johnson’s line drive, not knowing he was about to smack into the wall just to the right of the Sox bullpen.

“I didn't think the ball was going to carry as much,” said Wells, who saved reliever Nate Jones from blowing the lead. “He kind of hit it and I just started tracking it. I didn't really have time to feel out for where the warning track was or anything. I just kind of jumped and luckily I had enough room to work with."

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Wells suspected he had a couple marks on his back from the chain-link fence he met by surprise. After a rather sloppy first half of the season on defense, the Sox  (39-56) turned heads on several plays Sunday, including Jeff Keppinger’s diving stop that saved at least one run in the third.

“You can go through slumps defensively, but I see our team more like we played today than I do what was happening in the first half,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

The Sox defense made up for the Braves’ 9-5 advantage in hits. All nine came off Sox starter Jose Quintana, who also walked three and hit a batter in 5 2/3 innings. But he gave up just on run, thanks largely to Keppinger’s diving play.

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With the bases loaded and two outs in the third, Atlanta’s Brian McCann hit a hard grounder headed for right field. But Keppinger made a diving stop and threw to first from his knees to save a run, if not two.

"It was incredible,” Quintana said through translator and Sox coach Lino Diaz. “These things, they don't happen all the time. And the fact they happened today when [I] needed them, [I] got help from very good defense today.”

He had luck on his side, too. An inning before Keppinger’s diving play, the Braves (55-43) had the bases loaded with one out. Johnson scorched a line drive, but it went right to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who caught it and threw to second to easily double off McCann.

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The Sox made the most of their five hits, scoring on singles by Adam Dunn and Alex Rios and a sacrifice fly by Dayan Viciedo, all against Atlanta starter Mike Minor.

Atlanta scored its only run on Evan Gattis’ two-out single in the fifth.

Addison Reed pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 25th save.

Game notes

- Quintana cramped up in the fifth, prompting a visit from Ventura and the Sox medical staff. He worked through the inning before being removed in the sixth.

“It was just one of those where you want to make sure he’s not trying to overcompensate and hurt himself in other ways,” Ventura said. “But he was fine. He tried to gut through it and he wasn’t able to do it. At that time you couldn’t chance it.”

Quintana said it was the first time he cramped up during a game.

“When I have another day start, I definitely have to hydrate more and look for a way [to hydrate] more than drinking water,” he said.

- Braves’ catcher Gerald Laird suffered a left hand contusion after being hit by a pitch in the fourth. X-rays were negative. He left the game for a pinch-runner.

- Alex Rios stole his 20th base of the season, giving him five 20-steal seasons in his career.