Sox rally, gain ground in AL Central
Thome's 562nd homer sparks seven unanswered runs
CHICAGO -- Along with "offensive force" and "2009 American League Rookie of the Year candidate," you now can add psychic to the plethora of descriptions used to depict White Sox third baseman Gordon Beckham.
It was Beckham, while standing on first base in the fifth inning of Saturday's game at U.S. Cellular Field after being hit by a Tomo Ohka pitch, who told Cleveland first baseman Chris Gimenez about a monster blast Jim Thome launched earlier this season. Then, Beckham told Gimenez that another Thome clout was on the way.
Thome must have some sort of cosmic connection with Beckham, as he drove a 1-2 pitch some 442 feet away over the greenery in center field, sparking a four-run rally in the frame. That fifth-inning comeback brought the White Sox even, but they didn't finish until scoring seven unanswered runs to claim an 8-5 victory before 35,224. The win for the White Sox (57-54) ended a brief two-game losing streak, and moved them back within two games of first-place Detroit in the American League Central.
And like Beckham predicted, Thome started this come-from-behind effort.
"When Jimmy hit that home run, that was a great opportunity," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Thome's 21st home run this season. "Everybody put their head up and started swinging the bats the way we think they can swing the bat."
"Not only that, I mean that whole inning, we scored four runs," said White Sox reliever D.J. Carrasco, noting Carlos Quentin's two-run double to tie the game at 5. "The next inning, we went up ahead."
Carrasco pointed out how Thome's prolific drive was even more impressive because it cut through a 16-mph wind, gusting up to 23 mph. Travis Hafner hit a towering shot off White Sox starter Carlos Torres in the third that looked long gone, but the wind knocked it down for a flyout to Dewayne Wise instead of a two-run home run.
"Jimmy, to go through that wind and put it up on the upper deck, was big time," said Carrasco of the 562nd home run of Thome's Hall of Fame-bound career, moving him within one home run of Reggie Jackson for 12th place on the all-time list.
If Thome's long ball ignited the comeback, then it was Carrasco who once again served as the steadying force to make the win possible. Cleveland built up a 5-1 lead behind Justin Masterson, scoring four runs off Torres in 3 1/3 innings and one run off reliever Randy Williams.
Torres, making his second career start, gave up four runs on three hits, walking six and striking out five.
"Very off. A lot of balls, but it could have been uglier," said Guillen of Torres, who walked the bases loaded with one out in the first, but struck out Hafner and Gimenez. "His weapon is a strike, and he wasn't even close."
Carrasco entered with two outs and a run in during the fifth, and proceeded to hold the Indians (47-63) scoreless over the next 2 1/3 innings. He fanned three, part of a season-high 15 strikeouts for White Sox pitching.
With the White Sox possibly in need of a fifth starter two more times before Jake Peavy makes his debut, Guillen admitted that the team had thought about giving Carrasco a shot at the temporary job. Then again, Carrasco has made himself far too valuable in this middle relief, bailout sort of role.
"Just like last year, if I could help this team get to the playoffs, that's my ultimate goal is to get to the playoffs and win a World Series," Carrasco said. "If that means being the long man this year, that's fine. But overall, I would like to have the opportunity to start. That's my goal, personally, but I put the team in front of me."
Carrasco (4-1) picked up the victory when Beckham's sacrifice fly scored Wise with the go-ahead run in the sixth. The White Sox added single runs in the seventh and eighth, before Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks finished up the victory by fanning four of the last five they faced.
Jenks made his first appearance since Aug. 1 against the Yankees, retiring both batters he faced in the ninth, although he did not record a save because he didn't pitch a full inning with the three-run lead. It was a welcome comeback for Jenks, after battling through a week's worth of pain caused by kidney stones.
"It was nice getting my feet wet again," said Jenks, who said he's pitching at 80 or 90 percent healthy and no longer has his mechanics hampered by the kidney stone pain. "Not being out there for a while I tired a little bit quickly. But I was able to battle through."
The White Sox enter Sunday's series finale against the Indians looking to finish this 10-game homestand with a 7-3 mark. It would be a positive step for the White Sox before embarking on a West Coast road trip to Seattle and Oakland.
This series victory was made possible, though, by Thome's long drive off Ohka and Beckham's psychic vision.
"He's a good hitter and I made a mistake two times," said Ohka, who threw a curveball to Thome on a 1-2 pitch that he fouled off and then threw another curveball on the next pitch that Thome hit out.
"It's going to be a grind the rest of the season," said Jenks of the up-and-down nature of the division. "The Central is beating up on each other. But our guys battled tonight. Our pitching staff did awesome tonight. All and all it was a great win."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.