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DENVER -- Excitable as baking soda and vinegar, Jeff Cox needed just a split second to clearly work all the scenarios in his mind and make the call that gave the White Sox a victory Wednesday.
His decision to send Carlos Quentin home in the ninth inning after a shallow fly ball from A.J. Pierzynski was equal parts mathematical strategy as it was Wild West prospecting.
Quentin scored the eventual game winner in a 3-2 victory even though he should have been thrown out by 30 feet. But the White Sox have been having trouble scoring runs and since Pierzynski’s pop up to right fielder Seth Smith was the second out, Cox took his chances.
Smith's throw was well ahead of Quentin but it was up the third-base line and short-hopped catcher Chris Iannetta. Quentin scored standing.
"I got to listen to Coxie," Quentin said. "I came off, it looked like it might flare in and drop. I was slowly going back to the bag and so I was near the bag. He told me late, but I was able to get back to the bag and go.”
Cox was asked if the decision to send the runner was a no-brainer.
“Believe me, there was a little question about it,” Cox said. “[Smith] was coming in, he was going to his left, he’s a left-handed thrower and he’s going to have to take a split second to get his feet right. Shoot, it’s the ninth inning and that makes the second out, so let’s make it happen and hopefully the throw is off-line a tad. And the more you practice, the luckier you get.”
Most people end their sentences with periods. Cox punctuates them with bits of wisdom. Sometimes they even make sense.
On this night he was a little bit mad genius.
“Well, I think you got to roll the dice,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “When you’re a third-base coach you think about what you should do, but my third base coach we have been supporting him. We said roll the dice every time we have a chance to score some runs. Take a chance you never know what will happen.”
And as if running all the scenarios through his head in the time it took Pierzynski’s fly ball to reach Smith wasn’t enough, Cox also thought back to Tuesday night when Rockies third-base coach Rich Dauer took a chance by sending Troy Tulowitzki home giving Colorado a victory. Cox wasn’t to be outdone by his Southern California counterpart.
“That one [by Dauer] was probably a little easier, to put it in a nutshell,” Cox said. “Yes, go, go. We lost in [13 innings] last night and we got two outs here. Let’s take a shot at it. … And A.J., could you hit a little deeper next time? But just another game winner by A.J. Pierzynski.”
Don Cooper anointed Cox the coach of the game. Sergio Santos went one further, albeit reluctantly, by calling Cox the player of the game.
Cox was having fun with it all. Typically third base coaches are only noticed, and asked to do interviews, when their decisions don’t turn out so well. And this could have easily been one of those occasions where he was the goat instead.
“As is often the case with third-base coaches, if it doesn’t work,” Cox said. “It’s a fearless job, to be honest with you. But, then again, somebody has to do it. And I love doing it!”