White Sox offense comes alive vs. Rays
Thome hits career home run No. 511 in decisive win
ST. PETERSBURG -- Perhaps it was the spurn of Thursday night's extra-inning loss in Baltimore. Or manager Ozzie Guillen's talk on the plane, in which he addressed the body language and attitudes of the players. Whatever the trigger was, the White Sox wasted no time jumping on Rays rookie Jeff Niemann en route to a 9-2 victory on Friday.
"This is special. We have a special thing going on," Guillen said. "I think the way we lost last night and the way we traveled here [late at night], and responded that way, it is a good sign."
For the second straight night, the White Sox hit back-to-back home runs, this time from Jim Thome and Paul Konerko in the third inning. Thome's shot came with Juan Uribe on second and Nick Swisher on first, and was his 511th career home run, tying the designated hitter with Mel Ott for 21st all-time.
"That was the longest ball I've ever seen anyone hit," Guillen said. "If that ball didn't hit the catwalk, it would have hit one of the walls out there [behind the scoreboard]."
The rest of the Sox lumber followed suit, tacking on four runs and batting around in the fourth inning. Even slumping Uribe got in on the action, going 2-for-5 with an RBI double down the left-field line. Uribe had been hitless in his previous 13 at-bats, and entered the series a meager 4-for-38 on the season. Pablo Ozuna also had a pair of hits, starting in place of Joe Crede, who was given the day off.
The most important stat was nowhere to be found on Friday's box score, however, as the Sox continued to show grit and poise on the heels of a defeat.
"The way we don't carry the loss last night into today's game, and we just take it one day at a time, it's something I expect," Guillen said. "But one thing is expectations, another is doing it. And they went out with the same attitude they come with every day, and that was something."
Despite the early advantage, the Sox never showed any signs of wavering, and were buoyed by a strong defensive effort and yet another impressive performance from their starting pitching.
After 15 innings of shutout ball, Javier Vazquez was finally tagged for a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth. The right-hander scattered six hits over 6 1/3 innings, and picked up his third straight win.
After escaping a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the second inning, Vazquez went on to retire nine of the next 10 batters he faced.
"It was huge," Vazquez said of the momentum after the Sox ended the threat.
"Back then it was a nothing-nothing ballgame, so a run there might have been a different ballgame. You never know in baseball."
The right-hander faced 75 consecutive batters without a issuing a walk before allowing Rays outfielder Nathan Haynes a free pass to start the seventh inning. Lefty Matt Thorton then came on in relief, and although Vazquez said he wanted to finish the inning, he acknowledged the need to get the bullpen work as well.
"It's no big deal," he said. "It is early in the season and I know they want to keep me healthy."
After Thursday's collapse, the bullpen converted back to its stingy ways, combining to blank the Rays late in the game. Thorton didn't allow a hit in 1 2/3 innings, while righty Nick Massey allowed one hit to close out the ninth.
The South Siders also came back strong on the field, going errorless in Friday's win after making two major defensive guffaws in Thursday's loss.
"I know what I have, and this is why I cannot let these guys get out of my hands," Guillen said. "[If it] is time to say something I will say it. I'm not going to wait a week or a couple days; I will say it."
Friday night, the Sox showed Guillen that his message is coming through loud and clear.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.