After issuing a leadoff double in the 3rd inning with the game tied 1-1, Rays starter Alex Cobb took the opportunity to retaliate for A.J. Pierzynski spiking Ben Zobrist on a slide Tuesday night. He plunked Pierzynski in the back, which seemed somewhat inevitable, but sparked a two-run inning, so it was hard to look at the event with a great deal of anger.
For whatever reason, the White Sox decided not to leave it at that (perhaps they felt Pierzynski's level of intent didn't quite match up with being hit in the back), as Jose Quintana threw a 92 mph fastball behind Ben Zobrist on the first pitch with two outs in the 4th.
Despite not warning the benches on the previous HBP, Wegner immediately ejected Quintana, and later tossed Robin Ventura, who was as disagreeable as he's ever been since taking over the manager role.
The sudden move by Wegner prematurely ended a promising start from Quintana, and sent the Sox to the bullpen early.
Luckily, the pen offered a lot of options with an off day coming on Thursday, and the two Cubans Viciedo and Ramirez went for back-to-back doubles in the 5th, which was just enough to cover up for a two-run HR off of Nate Jones by Carlos Pena.
White Sox 4, Rays 3
Jose Quintana - 3.2 IP, H, ER, 0 BB, 2 K, HR - He wasn't dominant and unlikely won't be very often, but had only made one mistake.
Dayan Viciedo - 3 for 4, 2B, R, RBI - His batting average is at .291, his OBP is now over .300, and it's hard to tell how much of it is hot streak, and how much is him simply being comfortable
Alex Rios - 2 for 5, 2B, R, RBI - Displayed some more pull power, and punished Alex Cobb early
Alexei Ramirez - 2 for 3, 2B, SF, 2 RBI - He's getting really close to raising his slugging percentage over .300
White Sox bullpen - 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB, 6 K, HR - Solid work in an unfavorable situation, with the only runs coming off Nate Jones--the first man in.
The bullpen was nursing a one-run lead for the last 3.2 innings, and Addison Reed allowed a walk and a sharp single in the 9th, so this game didn't get comfortable until it was all over.
Reed was far from sharp with his command, but Rays hitters couldn't square up his big fastball, and saw their way out of a scoring opportunity with three pop-ups.
Things Would Be Different If...
The White Sox stranded 10 runners, and blew a bases-loaded, no out situation in the 2nd that could have provided more breathing room, but they would have had one less baserunner to work with if Cobb hadn't put Pierzynski on in the 3rd.
Quintana's ejection showed one drawback to retaliation, but the Rays suffered the other as Pierzynski came around to score on a sacrifice fly, in what wound up being a one-run game.
The winning streak endures despite the most hindrances yet. Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko were nonexistent, the starting pitcher was tossed, the closer was shaky, runners were stranded at will, and yet the Sox still had enough to knock the Rays out of 1st place and complete a road sweep of an elite opponent.
With eight straight wins, and 12 in their last 13, it's hard to imagine how the White Sox could be any hotter. It would serve them well to ride the wave to not just take over 1st place, but make some room for themselves while they can. Their recent history against the incoming Seattle Mariners suggests they can.