CHICAGO -- When the White Sox took the field against the Indians on Wednesday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, it marked just the 20th game of the 2013 season for the South Siders.
To talk about must-win games at this juncture borders on ridiculous.
But the 3-2 White Sox victory still stood as a most welcome sight, ending the team's four-game losing streak and producing the first win in the fourth of eight games on an abbreviated homestand.
"Every one counts, no matter if it comes in the beginning or the end," said White Sox reliever Nate Jones, who threw two hitless innings in relief. "We really needed it."
"Any time we get a win, it's huge," said White Sox closer Addison Reed, who picked up his sixth save in six tries by pitching a scoreless ninth. "The last few games haven't worked out for us."
Wednesday's winning formula becomes the framework of what the White Sox (8-12) would like to see more often during the remaining 142 games this season. Jose Quintana (2-0) set the tone with five-plus strong innings, with Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain joining Jones and Reed in shutting down the Indians (8-11) over the final four.
About the only thing missing from the equation once again was timely hitting. The White Sox offense entered the contest last in the American League with a .163 average with runners in scoring position and finished 1-for-8 with seven left on base against Zach McAllister (1-3) and four Indians relievers.
"Usually, you're going to see two to three guys probably struggle at any time. But when it's a group and you're not getting it done consistently, it's tough on everybody," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of the offense. "Eventually, it moves on and you just keep playing. I guess that's why we have so many games. You just have to be patient enough to wait for it."
Alex Rios provided the margin of victory with a two-run homer off McAllister in the fifth. Jeff Keppinger, whose first-inning single drove home Alejandro De Aza with the game's first run, started this particular two-out rally with a single to right and Rios connected on homer No. 6 via a 0-2 fastball that tailed high and back over the plate.
It clearly wasn't the precise location McAllister wanted. Then again, it wasn't exactly a hitter's ideal pitch either.
"I wasn't necessarily surprised that he hit it. But I was surprised he hit it that well, that's for sure. He's a good hitter," said McAllister of Rios. "If he pops out or swings and misses, it's a different ballgame."
"That's probably where he wanted it, up there," said Rios, who broke an 0-for-13 slump with his third two-strike homer this season. "I happened to put a good swing on it, got the head out and the result was good."
Quintana's career-high 18 2/3 scoreless-innings streak came to an end, but the southpaw's on-field confidence continues to grow. The left-hander set down the first nine in order and struck out three while allowing two walks and four hits in five-plus innings.
His biggest pitch came in the fourth, with the bases loaded and one out, when Ryan Raburn grounded a first-pitch, two-seam fastball to Alexei Ramirez, who started a routine 6-4-3 double play.
"It's one of those at-bats I wish I could go back and do it over, but I can't," Raburn said. "I just kind of tried to play hero and do more than I should. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don't. It's part of the game."
"All I'm trying to do is take it inning by inning, hitter by hitter. That's about it," said Quintana through translator and White Sox coach Lino Diaz. "Just doing the little things to control the game."
Ventura pulled Quintana in the sixth with runners on first and third, nobody out and Mark Reynolds at the plate in a 3-1 game. Quintana was just at 92 pitches, but the matchup of Jones against the right-handed-hitting Reynolds and his seven homers seemed to be more favorable.
Reynolds' sacrifice fly to right cut the lead to 3-2, and the Indians actually got the tying run to third with one out when Jason Kipnis swiped second and third base. Kipnis stole third when Jones failed to look back and hold him close to second, but Jones made amends for that small gaffe by striking out Nick Swisher and retiring Raburn on a fly ball to left.
"As soon as he got over to third, I wasn't giving in," said Jones, who fanned Swisher on a 3-2 pitch. "I knew there was a base open and I could get a ground ball for a double play. I wanted to throw that slider again because I assumed he was going to be sitting dead red fastball. It worked out."
Ramirez even threw in a little defense to the victorious mix, taking a hit away from Lonnie Chisenhall with a runner on first in the ninth, using his slick pick up the middle to end the victory.
Not a must-win, of course. But a much-needed one.
"I'm happy about the victory," Quintana said. "We needed to get that win. It's a start. We need to keep it going through the next games."