White Sox walk-off on Crede's single
Thome moves into 19th place with 513th homer as slide ends
CHICAGO -- Run-of-the-mill, line-drive singles to left-center field usually don't set off the wild celebration witnessed at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday night, just 15 minutes before the game between the White Sox and Yankees bled over into Friday morning.
As is the case with most Joe Crede late-inning at-bats, coming with the game on the line, there's rarely anything run-of-the-mill or ordinary.
Crede delivered his third game-winning and first walk-off hit of the year with a one-out drive scoring Carlos Quentin and coming against one of baseball's more dominant relievers in Joba Chamberlain. Crede's single gave his team a 7-6 victory before the remnants of the 27,243 who opened the night at U.S. Cellular Field, preventing the White Sox (12-9) from suffering their first three-game losing streak or series sweep of the 2008 season.
Add on the propositions of waiting out 85 total minutes in rain delays and surviving a late rally by the Yankees (12-11), and the frenzied on-field reaction became a little more understandable.
"Long night -- a relief," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of a couple of reasons behind the reaction, after taking a beating behind the plate blocking numerous balls in the dirt, but also driving in a run during a five-run fourth inning.
"It was just a nice win against a good team," Pierzynski added. "Everyone was happy to win a game, with the way the night went with the rain delays and everything."
Pierzynski had a chance to end the game leading off the ninth inning, hitting a drive to center that Melky Cabrera tracked down near the wall. Quentin followed with a double to left field on a 2-2 pitch from Chamberlain (1-1), and Crede came through on a 1-2 curveball from the overpowering right-hander.
The moment joined Crede's game-winning home run off Jake Westbrook in Cleveland on April 3 and his grand slam off Pat Neshek in a 7-4 victory over the Twins during the White Sox home opener on April 7. Crede steps to the plate in these particular situations, and even the greatest of skeptics believes a game-changing sequence is on its way.
"You go up and try not to do too much," said Crede, who is hitting .293 with a team-best 21 RBIs. "You try to figure out what you need to do to go out and get a base hit, but it's a great feeling to know people have the confidence in you to help the team win."
"We like our chances with Joe up in that situation," Pierzynski added. "He's done it all year, and his whole career since I've been here. It was the right guy in the right spot. He got a ball up and hit it hard."
The ultimate glory goes to Crede. There were still plenty of kudos to hand out for the first-place White Sox.
Closer Bobby Jenks (1-0) entered a tied game in the ninth with Derek Jeter on second base, Hideki Matsui on first, one out and pinch-hitter Jorge Posada at the plate. Posada doubled off Jenks on Wednesday, but he bounced into a double play courtesy of second baseman Juan Uribe, shortstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Paul Konerko to end the inning.
Jim Thome produced a piece of history in the fifth inning, launching his 513th career home run. Thome drove out a 2-1 pitch from LaTroy Hawkins with one out, moving past Ernie Banks and Eddie Matthews for sole possession of 19th place on the all-time list.
Starting pitcher Gavin Floyd gutted through a 34-minute rain delay before the game and came back after a 51-minute delay in the bottom of the third, battling through a night in which he clearly didn't have his best stuff. The White Sox gave Floyd a little room to work with by scoring five runs in the fourth off reliever Ross Ohlendorf, but Floyd gave back two on Cabrera's homer to right in the sixth.
Where Cabrera's long ball was concerned, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen put the full brunt of the outcome squarely on his shoulders.
"Today, I want to thank my players to come out and win because I think that's the worst day I ever managed by gut feeling," Guillen said. "I let Cabrera hit the home run with a lefty up [in the bullpen].
"After that happened, you kick yourself in the butt. But this kid was throwing the ball well and just didn't get it done there."
Guillen toyed with the idea of following the second delay with a pitcher other than Floyd, who had his string of 17 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run come to an end by giving up five runs in six innings. But Floyd's work was part of the necessary path traveled leading to Crede's big moment.
Maybe it was the fact that the White Sox avoided playing extra innings in an already long night, or maybe the South Siders simply relish every hard-fought victory. Whatever the reasoning, Crede's single brought about a mob scene of players around him who slapped the third baseman on the helmet and jumped on the conquering hitter.
Simply put, it was a championship-type celebration for the 21st game of the 2008 season.
"It was a wild game, a crazy game, a long game," Pierzynski said. "But it's nice to beat these guys, especially against that guy [Chamberlain], who has been unbeatable."
"Our team has that never-say-die attitude where we expect to win," added Crede, who also made a slick running catch of Jason Giambi's foul popup with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, moving from shortstop in a shift to corral the baseball. "We wanted to get this game here tonight."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.