DETROIT -- When the White Sox offense stands as the topic of discussion this season, the names Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye immediately come to the forefront. And with good reason.
This trio of sluggers has combined for 98 home runs and 274 RBIs. But usually located somewhere in the sixth or seventh spot of the lineup awaits Joe Crede, one of the more underrated overall players in the American League, let alone offensive forces.
Crede would hit in the middle of the order for most teams, and when Crede faces Detroit, he immediately becomes a middle-of-the-order sort of hitter. That trend continued during the White Sox 7-5 victory over the Tigers before a sellout crowd of 40,187 at Comerica Park on Wednesday. The win moved the White Sox within 6 1/2 games of the Tigers in the American League Central, improved their ledger to 10-5 against Detroit this season and maintained their one-half game lead over the Twins in the AL Wild Card race.
Not only did Crede hit two home runs, giving him 27 for the season and 101 for his career, but they both were significant blasts. His first drive, leading off the second, gave the White Sox a 4-3 advantage, after Detroit (81-46) rallied for three in the bottom of the first off Freddy Garcia.
And Crede's home run leading off the seventh gave the White Sox (74-52) a little breathing room, following a two-run Detroit rally in the sixth, which cut the lead to 6-5. Reliever Colby Lewis jammed Crede on his second home run, and Crede still easily cleared the fences.
"Crede has been clutch, and it seems like every time he hits a ball, it's a clutch hit," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of his third baseman, who broke a 48 at-bat home run drought with his second-inning shot, homering for the first time since June 20 against St. Louis.
"He's a strong man," Guillen added. "He hit one ball, with one hand, out of the ballpark. I see [Craig] Monroe and [Tadahito] Iguchi hit the [tar] out of it and it doesn't get close to the warning track."
That's right. Leading off the second, Crede hit an offspeed pitch from Detroit rookie Zach Miner (7-5) basically with one hand into the left-field stands. The pitch was low and away, appearing to be in a good location, and left fielder Craig Monroe initially broke in on the ball because of Crede's one-handed wave.
His effort still was enough to produce this milestone home run, but it only figures an important offensive moment would take place for Crede in Comerica. He now has 14 career home runs and 29 RBIs at the home of the Tigers, the highest total of any ballpark other than U.S. Cellular Field for Crede. Yet, he doesn't find Comerica as an especially hitter-friendly venue.
"Not really. I don't know what it is about this ballpark," said Crede. "I would take it to the other fields. I've had a lot more success here than any other place. I wish I could put a finger on it, but I don't know what it is.
"I got fooled on that pitch," added Crede of his one-handed home run. "I stayed back long enough and kept my hands behind the ball. I was able to drive it out of here."
After scoring one run over the first two defeats to the Tigers, and plating just two runs in 21 innings against the three starting pitchers they faced during a three-game losing streak, the White Sox exploded early and often against Miner. Jermaine Dye's 35th home run, coming with Thome and Konerko on base, gave the White Sox a three-run lead in their opening at-bats.
Detroit rallied right back against Garcia (12-8), with Dmitri Young blasting out a monstrous home run to right in the bottom of the first. But Guillen pointed to the three-run rally in the second off Miner and reliever Wilfredo Ledezma as key to the team's success.
"They get back in the game, and we could say, 'There we go again,'" Guillen said. "We just go out and do what we have to do and score three more."
"How I pitched tonight, I should have pitched better," added Garcia, who allowed five runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. "The offense was great and the bullpen came up and got it done."
Matt Thornton, Mike MacDougal and Bobby Jenks (36th save) worked 3 2/3 scoreless innings combined in relief of Garcia, who settled down after the first and showed he might be getting stronger as the season winds down by consistently hitting the low 90s with his fastball. Jim Leyland and Guillen also managed this contest as if it were more like Game 7 of the World Series, as opposed to Game 3 of a late-August series in Detroit.
A moment in the seventh perfectly illustrated this battle of great baseball minds. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Leyland left in the right-handed Lewis to face left-handed hitting Scott Podsednik, until Podsednik was unable to get the sacrifice bunt down and the count moved to 2-2.
Leyland then removed Lewis in mid-count, in favor of left-handed specialist Jamie Walker, in an attempt to get the strikeout. Guillen countered by pinch-hitting right-handed hitting Brian Anderson for Podsednik. The entire scenario played out with Anderson striking out on the only pitch he saw and Alex Cintron hitting into an inning-ending double play.
This strategic moment illustrated the importance of this battle with the postseason fast approaching. It's a significant win certainly not lost on the White Sox slugger of the night, and Comerica's No. 1 enemy.
"Especially chasing the Tigers, it's good to gain a game on them," Crede said. "But it goes with worrying about ourselves and not everyone else. If we take care of things here in the clubhouse and on the field, we will be in good position."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.