White Sox build on big night
Late rally lifts Chicago over Texas in series finale
CHICAGO -- Assists or any sort of victory credits aren't handed out to players who don't participate in a given Major League Baseball contest.
But if that official statistic suddenly was added to the box score representing the White Sox 6-4 victory over the Rangers before 25,495 at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday, then Mark Buehrle's name would have followed said category.
Buehrle basically did nothing more Thursday than handle a plethora of media requests and bask in the afterglow of Wednesday's no-hitter. That special performance seemed to carry over a major boost for a team searching for sparks during the first 12 games of the 2007 season.
"Absolutely," said White Sox third baseman Joe Crede, when asked if Wednesday's game had an effect on his team's performance Thursday. "A lot of people fed off the game last night, and you could see the energy in the clubhouse and the dugout. It showed on the field tonight."
"I thought we played a very good game," added White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome, who set a career high Thursday with five walks in five at-bats and matched a franchise record set by Tony Muser (1973) and Frank Thomas (1996). "If last night had a little bit to do with it, great, but everyone was very focused and we did a real nice job."
The inherent suspense tied into back-to-back no-hitters for the White Sox (7-7) came to a thunderous halt with one out in the second when Sammy Sosa launched a 2-0 pitch from Javier Vazquez into the left-field stands for his fourth home run of the season. Sosa's return to Chicago featured two home runs and two doubles in the three games, although he was more disappointed with the series loss suffered by Texas (6-9).
Vazquez entered Thursday's contest with a 2-0 record and 1.50 ERA, but the right-hander said he performed at his best against the Rangers out of his three starts. Vazquez allowed three runs on four hits before being lifted after 81 pitches and Sosa's leadoff double in the seventh, with manager Ozzie Guillen wanting to make use of the seven relievers he has in the bullpen.
As for the specter of a no-hitter, Vazquez admitted there were a few humorous barbs thrown his way when he came into the clubhouse following the top of the second.
"Actually, when I came in, [Jon] Garland was here and he made that comment, 'There goes the no-hitter,'" said Vazquez with a smile. "This was the best I've felt, but we won the game. That's what matters."
Crede drove in the go-ahead run with a one-out single to center off reliever Scott Feldman (1-1) in the eighth, scoring Jermaine Dye, who had doubled. Crede also ended a stretch of 49 straight at-bats without an extra-base hit via a second-inning double in which A.J. Pierzynski was thrown out at the plate.
In the eighth against Feldman, Crede's sole focus was placed on giving the White Sox any sort of advantage.
"Once I got two strikes, I was thinking more up the middle," Crede said. "Just a base hit right here. I was not trying to do too much. I tend to do that in certain situations."
"We got clutch hitting," Guillen added. "We still have a couple of guys trying to get it going in there, but I have a lot of confidence in those guys. Hopefully we can get on a roll and keep it going as long as we can."
Rob Mackowiak added to the lead in the eighth with a two-run home run following Crede's single. Pierzynski also went deep in the fourth, a three-run blast off Vicente Padilla, erasing the 1-0 deficit brought about by Sosa's home run.
Mackowiak and Pierzynski entered the game with nine hits in 54 total at-bats this season and just one RBI. The catcher had a theory, though, as to why his first home run and Mackowiak's first long drive came on Thursday.
"Well, it was Polish Night, so Rob and I had to hit home runs," said Pierzynski, referring to the event taking place Thursday at U.S. Cellular. "This offense is going to be fine; we aren't worried. We just have to stay positive and keep doing what we are doing."
Matt Thornton (1-1) earned the victory with one scoreless inning of relief, while Bobby Jenks allowed one run in the ninth but picked up his fourth save in five opportunities. Jenks' fastball also topped out at 96 mph, a good sign for the closer's building arm strength.
"His velocity was back and the ball was coming out of his hand well," said Pierzynski of Jenks. "Vintage Bobby."
Following Thursday's two-run victory, improving the White Sox to 4-4 at home, the team traveled to Detroit for the first series between the last two American League champions. The South Siders always have played well at Comerica Park and hope that trend continues this weekend.
Guillen's crew enters the series with a needed jolt of momentum, a rejuvenated offense and still riding the high produced by Buehrle's once-in-a-lifetime performance on Wednesday.
"Things were lethargic around here," said Garland, who will work Sunday's series finale in Detroit against Justin Verlander. "It didn't seem like that hunger was there for a lot of guys.
"Hopefully, guys can look back on [Buehrle's no-hitter] later on in the season, and say, 'Yeah, that was it. It woke us up and got us going.'"
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.