Bullpen lets Sox down in finale
Relievers give up six runs; Thome cheered in return
PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome received a standing ovation from the 42,677 in attendance at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday afternoon before he could even step into the batter's box for his first hacks against rookie Kyle Kendrick.
So much for the ruthless depiction of the fans in Philadelphia, who recognized a class individual and a standout player who only suited up for the Phillies during three seasons. But it was a curtain call asked for by those same fans of Aaron Rowand in the seventh inning that had a far greater impact on Philadelphia's 8-4 victory, completing the White Sox fifth straight series setback.
Rowand was hit twice by Jose Contreras' pitches during the Phillies' victory on Tuesday night, but Rowand hit back on Wednesday. The cult hero among South Side faithful might have lost a little of his good standing, driving home the game-tying run with an infield grounder in the sixth and putting away the victory with a two-out grand slam off of reliever Matt Thornton in the seventh. Rowand didn't even start the game, but matched a career high with five RBIs, as the White Sox lost for the 15th time in 18 games.
Although Rowand has absolutely no animosity toward the White Sox, the team that traded him to Philadelphia in the offseason following the 2005 World Series championship, he readily admitted Wednesday's long ball was more than just an ordinary home run.
"Put it this way," said Rowand, sitting in front of his locker in the Phillies' clubhouse, after knocking out his ninth home run. "I don't even remember running around the bases."
"Everyone knows what kind of player he is. We know what kind of player he is," added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Rowand. "This guy is a special guy."
The actual game-winning hit for Philadelphia (35-31) came three batters before Rowand's blast, when pinch-hitter Abraham Nunez cued a shot into right to score Chase Utley. Thornton retired Wes Helms on an infield popup to second baseman Alex Cintron, holding the runners at first and third, but walked Rod Barajas on four pitches to load the bases with two outs.
Guillen would have preferred to call on one of his right-handed relievers to face Rowand in this particular situation. Unfortunately, Ryan Bukvich already had pitched one inning in relief of starter John Danks, and closer Bobby Jenks was the only other right-hander available Wednesday. The White Sox manager wasn't about to use his closer in the seventh, already trailing by one run.
Following Philadelphia's three-game sweep, Guillen explained Wednesday's relief quandary while sending a message at the same time.
"I have three guys who couldn't go today," Guillen said. "[Nick] Masset went two innings [Tuesday], and he's the type of kid who doesn't have that many innings under his belt and couldn't go.
"[Brett] Prinz couldn't get loose after he threw 16 pitches [Tuesday]. He called me in the middle of the game, called down in the middle of the game, and said he couldn't get loose. So did [Dewon] Day.
"Day had a little back soreness and he couldn't get loose either," Guillen added. "I was kind of naked. I went only with four pitchers in the bullpen. One did a good job and that's why I kept Thornton the way I did it."
Thornton (2-2) allowed five runs on three hits and three walks over 1 1/3 innings. He carefully listened to Guillen's postgame explanation as it was relayed to him by the media, somewhat absolving him of guilt in this latest loss.
But Thornton stood up and took the brunt of this loss squarely upon his own shoulders.
"No, I have to get the job done," said Thornton, whose ERA has risen back up to 6.05. "I can't walk a guy on four pitches who was [0-for-3] with three punchouts. It's ridiculous.
"Fastball in, 0-2. It's where I wanted to go with it," added Thornton of his fateful pitch to Rowand. "That's the story of my last 10 days."
Danks contributed to the late-inning bullpen quagmire by lasting just 4 2/3 innings, before giving way to Bukvich after striking out Ryan Howard with runners on first and third and one out in the fifth. Danks allowed two runs on five hits, striking out five, but he also threw 103 pitches.
Chicago (27-35) knocked out nine hits against five Philadelphia pitchers, led by three from Cintron, who broke out of an 0-for-12 funk, and Jermaine Dye's two doubles and one RBI. Thome singled twice, reached base three times and scored once.
It was that first-inning standing ovation, though, which Thome will never forget. It was a move he acknowledged with a tip of the helmet.
"As I heard it, I just wanted to show them how much I appreciated it," Thome said. "For me, it's something I'll always remember. Very special, a lot of emotion inside."
"Everything I hear about Philadelphia, they have bad media and bad fans," Guillen added with a wry smile. "I know now the fans are pretty nice. The same thing I said about Cleveland, and how that was embarrassing, I tip my hat to the people in Philadelphia when they gave the standing ovation to the guy who well deserved it."
A seventh-inning curtain call also was well-deserved for Rowand, who didn't know if he got enough of Thornton's pitch to pick up his second career grand slam. The Phillies, as a group, got enough of the White Sox to drop them eight under .500 for the first time since June 6, 2003.
"Right now, when we hit, we don't pitch. When we pitch, we don't hit," Guillen said. "To win games at the big-league level, you have to put all that together and we don't do that at all."
"They're scuffling this year, and I want to see them do well," Rowand added. "It's tough to see your friends struggling."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.