07/25/2003 11:15 PM ET
Thomas makes history in Sox win
Loaiza earns 13th win as club wins eighth straight
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- All the hoopla from Friday’s 7-2 White Sox victory rightfully centered on Frank Thomas’ 400th career home run, a prodigious clout with two outs in the fifth inning off of Tampa Bay starter Jorge Sosa’s hanging slider.
The small amount of attention remaining transferred to the White Sox extending their winning streak to eight games, the longest for the South Siders since June 12-19, 2000.
But lost below the radar on ‘Rat Pack Night’ for the 22,617 at U.S. Cellular Field was the usual stellar pitching performance from Esteban Loaiza. The All-Star right-hander was ring-a-ding-dinged by the Devil Rays previously in his career, entering Friday with a 3-6 record and an earned run average a shade under 9.00.
It was Loaiza who had control on this particular night, working 6 1/3 innings and improving his record to 13-5. Loaiza allowed eight hits and two earned runs, coming on Toby Hall’s ninth home run in the seventh. He struck out two and walked one, posting his American-League leading 18th quality start in 21 appearances, while his American-League best ERA ‘rose’ to 2.19.
“I don’t want to give up any runs,” said Loaiza of his effort Friday. He has given up two runs or less in 16 of his 21 starts. “But this was typical of what I’ve been doing, trying to keep the team in the game until they can give me some runs.”
Loaiza didn’t have to wait long for run support against Tampa Bay, who defeated him earlier this season by a 3-2 margin. The White Sox offense took advantage of a first-inning error by third baseman Antonio Perez to score three runs when they probably shouldn’t have pushed across a single tally.
Roberto Alomar opened with a single to right, extending his hitting streak to nine games, and moved to second when Perez booted Carlos Lee’s double-play grounder, with both runners reaching safely. Thomas barely missed his 400th home run with a drive to the left-field wall that was caught by Carl Crawford, but Magglio Ordonez delivered a two-run double to right in the next at-bat. Carl Everett brought home Ordonez, who is hitting .652 during his six-game hitting streak, with a single to center.
“It helps a lot when the offense jumps out to a lead like that, but I can’t relax,” said Loaiza of his early 3-0 advantage. “There was a lot of game left, and who knows what can happen.”
Miguel Olivo singled home Jose Valentin with one out in the fifth, increasing the lead to 4-0. After Olivo was caught stealing and Roberto Alomar walked, Lee hit a 1-2 offering from Sosa deep down the left-field line, 12 rows up in the stands, for his 18th home run and team-high 65th RBI.
Thomas followed with his blast on an 0-1 pitch, becoming the 36th player in baseball history to reach 400 home runs. Thomas earned a curtain call after the momentous home run and was cheered loudly every time he appeared on the field.
“I’m very proud of it, but the goal for me is still 500,” said Thomas of his milestone. “That seems like a long way away, but if I get into groove, it can go very fast. I’m trying to make the best of myself with a really good team.”
The victory improved the White Sox to 53-50, moving them three over .500 for the first time this season since they were 14-11 on April 27. They stayed four behind Kansas City and 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota, who both won on Friday.
During the club’s eight-game winning streak in 2000, the team swept three games from American League Central rival Cleveland and four from the New York Yankees on the road. Six victories of the current eight-game streak have come at home.
The last time the White Sox won nine in a row was in July of 1977. Of course, the eight-game winning streak in 2000 eventually led to an American League Central title and a berth in the postseason. Only time will tell if history can repeat itself.
“Well, we just have to keep putting pressure on and getting after it,” said White Sox manager Jerry Manuel of his team’s run of success. “We are doing some good things offensively and defensively, and when we swing the bats the way we did tonight, we are a dangerous club.”
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.