06/27/08 9:13 PM ET
Swisher helps White Sox slam Cubs
First baseman's home run caps seven-run third inning
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
In the top half of the frame, White Sox starter Jose Contreras escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam without being scored upon. In the bottom of the inning, the White Sox (44-35) erupted for seven runs against Ryan Dempster (9-3). The right-hander has been the Cubs' most consistent starter this season, a true National League All-Star candidate, and he shut down the South Siders over eight innings to complete a three-game sweep last Sunday night at Wrigley Field.
To gain a greater understanding of the White Sox dominance at U.S. Cellular Field, though, simply take a look at the start and finish of this contest. The White Sox scored their first run via the legs of Orlando Cabrera, as he singled to right-center and tagged up and moved to center on A.J. Pierzynski's routine fly ball to Eric Patterson in left field.
Jermaine Dye did not treat this particular blast as such. He crashed into the wall and made a spectacular grab to finish off the White Sox first home win over the Cubs (49-31) since May 20, 2006. Even after arriving back in Chicago late Thursday on a night flight from Los Angeles, the White Sox had that intensity all game and the Cubs did not.
"Finally, he's doing his job," said a smiling Cabrera of Dye's effort, drawing a laugh from the assembled media. "Dye made some great plays."
"I came in today not feeling too good, a little sluggish and tired from the long flight last night," Dye added. "Then to go out and play like I did today, it says a lot about myself getting ready to play when it's time to turn it on."
Dye also drove in three runs with three singles, raising his average to .302. One of those hits came during the seven-run third, when the White Sox sent 10 men to the plate in setting a season-high for runs scored in an inning. Seven straight men reached base after DeWayne Wise's leadoff fly ball to left, but the rally was punctuated by Nick Swisher's opposite-field grand slam into the left-center-field stands.
Swisher's third career grand slam stood as the sixth of the season for the White Sox, coming on a 1-2 mistake, and raised his average to .351 over his last 11 contests. Swisher finished with a single in three at-bats last Sunday against Dempster.
"Yeah, how 'bout that! The first time I ever faced Dempster, I had zero success," Swisher said. "The only thing I was trying to do in that second at-bat was just trying to put something up in the air and get it to the outfield. The last time we played, he pounded me in, and I was really looking in, and just happened to see the slider on the outside of the plate and got lucky and put the barrel on it."
"It's really hard to do sometimes, to sit in your locker and not give them any credit," added Dempster, who exited after Swisher's blast, having allowed eight runs on seven hits over 2 1/3 innings. "But they deserve the credit because they took advantage of the mistakes I made."
While the White Sox charismatic first baseman was successful in getting the ball in the air, and then some, with the bases loaded, Derrek Lee came up short in the same opportunity during the top of the third. Contreras (7-6), who yielded nine runs to the Cubs on 10 hits over 3 1/3 innings in an 11-7 loss last Saturday, walked Fukudome and Patterson to reach this piece of trouble after Ronny Cedeno's one-out single.
Manager Ozzie Guillen had a brief talk with Contreras, and whatever he said seemed to work. Lee rolled a 2-2 ground ball to third baseman Joe Crede, who started an around-the-horn, inning-ending double play. The momentum had turned even before the White Sox came up to bat.
So, what was the message Guillen delivered to his hurler?
"He told me to stay aggressive," said Contreras through interpreter Omer Munoz, after Contreras was touched for three solo home runs but gave up nothing more in six-plus innings. "He saw that I got lost a little bit. He wanted me to stay aggressive, make pitches and keep the ball down."
"The big pitch of the game was the Derrek Lee ground ball," Guillen added. "I think that changed the scenario. Besides that, he [fought] through it."
A little fight and a little knowledge went a long way for the White Sox on Friday. Cabrera mentioned after the game how the scouting report pointed to Patterson as a second baseman playing left, so the White Sox knew to run on him as much as possible.
When playing at home this year, the White Sox always seem to have a little extra energy in their step. The Cubs became the South Siders' 13th victim in their last 15 games at U.S. Cellular, the same sort of home-field dominance featured by the Cubs and most playoff contenders.
"Maybe we like the fans, I guess," said Cabrera about the team's strong play at home. "We definitely are a different team at home than on the road."
"You see a team get more confidence with each batter," Lee added. "We've had our share of those this year. It isn't much fun when you're on the other side."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.