Down to last out, Sox pull off dramatic win
Ramirez seals it in four-run ninth in final game at Metrodome
MINNEAPOLIS -- Was Wednesday afternoon's 4-2 stunner pulled off by the White Sox over the Twins at the Metrodome nothing more than a brief sign of life from a fading team?
Or was it the springboard to a special September that could put the underachieving South Siders back into American League Central contention?
Thursday's makeup contest at Wrigley Field and this weekend's four-game home set against Boston will do far more to begin to answer these particular questions. But as for Wednesday, an improbable four-run ninth-inning rally off of Minnesota closer Joe Nathan (2-2) at least served as the source of great White Sox celebratory one-liners.
Let's start with White Sox team captain Paul Konerko, the master of the deadpan delivery. It was Konerko's home run on a 3-2 Nathan pitch that tied the game with two outs in the ninth, and as he walked in after the victory, Konerko handed his hat to a clubhouse attendant and said to the awaiting media, with a wry smile, "We own this place."
Of course, nothing could be more distant from the truth. The White Sox (65-69) finished their time at the Metrodome with an 89-114 record, losing 19 of their final 24 in the building. They finished 1-8 in the Metrodome last year and rallied to finish 2-7 in 2009.
That rally began after eight innings of listless, scoreless baseball from Chicago's offense, with Minnesota (67-66) turning four double plays. Nathan quickly retired pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay on a swinging strikeout to start the ninth and then induced Scott Podsednik's routine fly ball to left fielder Denard Span for out No. 2.
Nathan jumped ahead on Gordon Beckham with two quick strikes, needing one more swing to send the White Sox to their sixth straight loss. But the rookie phenom worked the count full and then launched a 3-2 pitch into the left-field stands for his 10th home run and a 2-1 deficit.
"I was fortunate to get it to 3-2 and then get a pitch I could drive," Beckham said. "I didn't miss it."
"I'm not going to walk a guy to get Konerko up as the tying run," said Nathan of Beckham's home run. "So, I challenged him and he put a good swing on it."
Beckham's blast was a nice moment for the White Sox, but they still were one out away from falling 4 1/2 games behind the Twins for second. Once again, Nathan brought the game within its final strike, but Konerko drove out his own full-count offering for home run No. 24.
Konerko's long ball was more of a high fly, and Span looked as if he had his jump timed to take away the game-tying run. It would have been a fitting ending for the White Sox in the Metrodome, but instead, it landed about four rows beyond Span's outstretched glove.
"When I first hit it, I thought it had a chance, but when he got back to the wall, it seems like a lot of balls die here late in the game," Konerko said. "And let's face it, every time something is borderline in this park, you think it's going to go against us. Let's be honest for a second.
"Alexei got the huge hit after that. Just because we tied it, you didn't think, 'OK, we got these guys right where we want them,' because we've been walked-off so many times."
Alexei Ramirez's hit came off of Matt Guerrier, after Nathan exited following walks to Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin. His single to left on an 0-2 pitch scored pinch-runner Dewayne Wise when Span's throw short-hopped catcher Mike Redmond.
A good throw would have had Wise by a few feet. But it was an aggressive send by third-base coach Jeff Cox in a venue where the White Sox literally had nothing to lose.
"It was a good solid win," Konerko said. "I wish we had more of them, but at the same time, no one is going to cry that we're not going to be playing here again. It's fine with me, and I think it's fine with the rest of the team."
"Just about the time we played our last game here, I think we figured out how to win," said Mark Buehrle with a sarcastic smile, referring to the Twins' move outdoors to Target Field for 2010. "It's sad that we have to leave this place."
D.J. Carrasco (5-1) earned the win in relief and closer Bobby Jenks picked up his 28th save as the third and fourth pitchers behind Buehrle. The White Sox ace gave up two runs on seven hits over six innings but moved to 0-4 with a 5.44 ERA in eight starts since throwing the perfect game against the Rays on July 23.
Buehrle made his first career start at the Metrodome in 2000 and set the Major League record of 45 straight batters retired by knocking down the first 17 Twins he faced on July 28. Judging by how the White Sox use Wednesday's game, Buehrle's final start in the Metrodome could be the most memorable.
If nothing else, it gave the White Sox their second win in 10 games on this 11-game road trip. The victory also improved their record to 3-10 in this stretch of 20 games played in 20 days.
More importantly, the White Sox seemed to really enjoy themselves for the first time in a few weeks with the music blaring in the victorious clubhouse.
"I didn't know this clubhouse had such a nice sound system," said manager Ozzie Guillen with a laugh, referring to music usually playing after victories. "It's a good feeling. I forgot how to shake hands with other people."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.