ST. LOUIS -- The White Sox Interleague road show made its latest successful stop at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night.
And rookie left-hander Jose Quintana took center stage in the South Siders' 6-1 victory over the Cardinals before 40,972 that included quite a few White Sox supporters. This performance marked the 21st win for the White Sox (34-27) over their last 25 Interleague contests played away from home, including four straight in 2012, and their eighth straight road win overall.
It was the first Interleague start, fourth overall and sixth Major League appearance for Quintana (2-1), whom manager Robin Ventura compares favorably to former White Sox hurler Wilson Alvarez. Quintana lived a bit on the edge by allowing 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings, but the 23-year-old showed the maturity of a wily mound veteran by seemingly always having the answer to minimize the damage.
"I knew they were a good hitting team, so I was focusing on trying to be in the inside to middle of the plate," said Quintana through translator and White Sox manager of cultural development Jackson Miranda. "So, one of my biggest concentrations was giving them the cutter. I was trying to throw that cutter, especially deep in the count."
"He finds a way to make them hit a ground ball, get ahead," said Ventura of Quintana, who threw 56 of his 76 pitches for strikes, struck out four and didn't issue a walk. "There were some situations there where they had innings that make you scratch your head and make you start moving people around in the bullpen. He finds a way to make a pitch and get out of it. He uses his defense. A very mature kid."
Plenty of instances existed on this night to back up Ventura's point of view.
With runners on first and third and one out in the second, Quintana induced Shane Robinson's inning-ending double play, started by second baseman Gordon Beckham. With Yadier Molina on second and two outs in the third, Quintana struck out Matt Holliday looking. Then, with runners on first and second and two outs in the fourth, Robinson flew out to right fielder Alex Rios.
His quick pace on the mound and willingness to rely on his defense combined for another impressive Quintana outing.
"That's actually what I was looking for, those double plays where they were going to get me out of it," Quintana said.
"If he gives up a few hits for guys getting his cutter in, he doesn't sit there and say, 'I'm going to go away now because I'm scared to throw it,'" said White Sox captain Paul Konerko of Quintana. "He just keeps coming right at you. He's been a great surprise for us to come up and do what he has done. He has been lights out."
St. Louis (31-31) finally scored in the sixth on Carlos Beltran's double and Allen Craig's single. But with runners on first and second and one out, reliever Nate Jones got Tyler Greene to hit into a double play to the end threat.
Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright (5-7) actually was sharper than Quintana, but the defense behind him wasn't quite as slick. Third baseman David Freese's bobble of Alex Rios' sure-fire double-play grounder in the second turned into a fielder's choice and kept the inning alive for Orlando Hudson, who tripled home two runs off Beltran's glove in right.
The game remained a one-run contest until the White Sox pummeled Cardinals relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Mitchell Boggs during a four-run eighth. Beckham singled home the inning's first run, scoring Alejandro De Aza, and Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski followed with 400-foot homers. Dunn's 21st, a solo shot, actually covered 436 feet, while Pierzynski's 11th also scored Rios, giving Pierzynski 40 RBIs -- just eight below his 2011 total of 48.
"Offensively, we have the ability to hit it out," Ventura said. "You take it whenever you can."
Three hits apiece from Pierzynski, who is now hitting .297, and Konerko, who raised his average to a Major League-best .373, sparked an 11-hit attack. It was strong enough to erase back-to-back series losses at home to the Blue Jays and Astros and increase their American League Central lead to 1 1/2 games over the Indians, who lost, 7-1, in Cincinnati.
"We've had about already six or seven of those moments this year where we are doing well and then we kind of had a hiccup for a while and then you just know you kind of have to bounce back if you want to stay in it," Konerko said. "That was tonight. So it was kind of a big game for us to get back on track against one of the better pitchers in the game."
Quintana is scheduled to start Sunday at Dodger Stadium, which Ventura reaffirmed after Tuesday's game. John Danks is due back soon from Minor League injury rehab for a left shoulder strain, and with Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber struggling on the mound, the question remains whether Sunday will be Quintana's final start for a while.
Ventura said before the game that stranger things have happened than Quintana staying with the team. With a 1.98 ERA over 27 1/3 innings, Quintana staying might become more of the expectation than an oddity.
"When they give me the ball, I'm just going to go out there and pitch," Quintana said. "I'm not concentrating on the other stuff."
"At some point, you have to tip your hat to the other pitcher," Wainwright said. "That guy pitched a great game, no doubt about that. We have a great lineup. The guy just made a lot of good pitches today."