White Sox manager Jerry Manuel revealed his deepest desire before Monday night's game against Minnesota.
"One thing I'd feel good about," Manuel said, "is if we get a complete game. That would be really huge."
Consider it done. Bartolo Colon, huge in more ways than one, escaped trouble repeatedly to go the distance in the Sox's 5-2 victory over the Twins.
In a four-game series pitting the two best teams in the American League Central, not to mention the two best teams in baseball since the All-Star break, the Sox drew first blood.
Though the victory put them alone at the top of the standings for the first time in five days, the Sox preferred to focus on Colon, their 240-pound innings-eater.
"He's a freak of nature," first baseman Paul Konerko said. "He hits his stride in the eighth or ninth. I've faced him, so I know what it's like. He keeps coming at you. Just when you don't think he can't throw any harder, he does."
Colon improved to 13-12 with his seventh complete game of the season. Only Oakland's Mark Mulder has more, with nine.
And no Sox pitcher has completed more than seven games since Jack McDowell had 10 in 1993.
"You're never afraid of leaving him in because he seems to keep something in reserve every time," Manuel said.
Colon showed that down the stretch.
After giving up a single and a double to start the seventh, Colon set down the Twins' second, third and fourth hittersDenny Hocking, Doug Mientkiewicz and Matthew LeCroy.
Not that it was easy. Hocking rifled a shot back through the box that Colon speared with his glove.
"The ball caught me," Colon said jokingly.
Then Colon caught Mientkiewicz looking on a tailing fastball and earned a two-out pop-up from LeCroy. Colon's 1-2 pitch to LeCroy registered at 102 m.p.h. on the stadium radar gun.
"Every time he got in trouble, he turned it up a notch," Manuel said.
Colon credited his defense, calling it the "key to the game."
Leaping shortstop Jose Valentin snagged Jacque Jones' line drive in the third to save a pair of runs. Konerko gloved Cristian Guzman's sharp two-hopper to avoid damage in the fourth.
The Sox needed all the glove work to subdue a Minnesota team bent on rallying from a 5-0 deficit in the first.
The Sox jumped ahead against Twins right-hander Kyle Lohse with four two-out hits, supplied by Carl Everett, Valentin, Joe Crede and Miguel Olivo. In between Konerko drew a walk against Lohse, no small feat considering Konerko entered the game 1-for-27 against him.
As the Sox walked off the field after their offensive outburst, they got a standing ovation from a crowd of 32,807 on half-price night at U.S. Cellular Field.
But Colon, who entered the ninth with 110 pitches, earned the biggest cheers by going the distance. That allowed Manuel to save closer Tom Gordon and setup man Damaso Marte for another day.
After Colon gave up a one-hit single to Guzman in the ninth, he induced a game-ending double play from Shannon Stewart.
With Gordon warming up, "every hitter was basically his last," Manuel said.
His last hitter, it turned out, was the last one in the game.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times