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06/23/06 12:53 AM ET

Garcia, Thome secure sweep

Right-hander takes duel thanks to seventh-inning blast

CHICAGO -- Freddy Garcia can empathize with Cardinals pitcher Anthony Reyes.

With one swing of the bat in the seventh inning, Jim Thome busted up Reyes' no-hit bid with a 422-foot home run to right field, his 24th of the season, giving the Sox the 1-0 victory over St. Louis on Thursday night. It was the White Sox seventh straight victory and moved them within a half-game of Detroit (48-25) at the top of the American League Central.

Garcia (9-4) lost a one-hitter at the Metrodome last Aug. 23, when the Twins' Jacque Jones led off the eighth inning with a home run, giving Minnesota a 1-0 victory.

"It's tough, but it's a good thing," Garcia said of Reyes' outing. "He lost, 1-0, but he pitched well. He has to be proud of what he did tonight. I mean, we scored 33 runs in two games."

But Garcia, who improved his Interleague record to 18-6, came out on top of this one to sweep the Cardinals and raise the White Sox record against the National League to 8-1. Garcia allowed four hits over eight innings, striking out four, as he became the first nine-game winner for the White Sox (47-25).

"Freddy was outstanding," said Joey Cora, who was filling in while manager Ozzie Guillen served a one-game suspension, stemming from Tuesday's late-inning beanball incidents. "He knew he was in for a battle and he couldn't give up any runs and he beared down and did great."

Thome came up with the Sox only hit after they had outscored the Cardinals 33-11 in the previous two games. Thursday's victory completed the three-game sweep of the Cardinals (42-29) and marked the South Siders' second straight sweep of a National League squad.

"[Reyes] had thrown me some fastballs early, so the third at-bat I was ready and wanted to make sure that I got a good pitch to hit," Thome said. "I was fortunate that I got a pitch to hit and I put good wood on it."

The White Sox defense backed up Garcia by making key catches that may have saved some runs. Jermaine Dye snagged a Hector Luna fly ball in the fifth when he dove and ran into the wall, staying down briefly and rubbing his left shoulder. Rob Mackowiak also made a diving catch in short-center in the seventh to take away a Scott Rolen hit.

"When Freddy's throwing strikes like he was it really keeps you in the game all the time," Mackowiak said. "He's working ahead of the count all the time and it really keeps us on our toes defensively. It definitely showed tonight."

Guillen, who interestingly had mentioned Cora's managerial aspirations earlier in the week, watched the game from the owner's box while fans shouted up their praise. Guillen was suspended earlier in the day for his ejection during Tuesday's game after Sox reliever David Riske hit Cardinals batter Chris Duncan. Home plate umpire Mike Everitt had warned both benches after Cardinals pitcher Sidney Ponson hit Brian Anderson and Pablo Ozuna in consecutive at-bats in the sixth.

It was the fastest game of the season for the Sox, clocking in at two hours exactly. Cora and Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski credits that short time frame to Garcia pitching to the tempo of the game.

"If they score five, he's going to give up three or four," Cora said. "If they score 10, he's going to give up six."

"It's one of those things where you pitch to the score," Pierzynski said. "You don't go right after guys, you don't mess around as much. At a 0-0 game, you have to make better pitches and it keeps your focus. You can't take any pitches off."

Pierzynski caught the one-hitter that Garcia lost in Minnesota and is glad he was on the winning end of this one.

"Reyes should be very proud, he pitched great." Pierzynski said. "He made one mistake and Jim hit it. Other than that, he was pretty sharp all night. Tip your hat to him and be glad we won't see him for a while."

Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.