08/06/08 2:24 AM ET
Swisher's walk-off marks 14-inning win
Konerko, Quentin and Ramirez also go deep vs. Tigers
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Neither did Joey Cora, the White Sox bench coach who filled in as manager while Ozzie Guillen served Game 1 of his two-game suspension.
"My concern was we might finish after them, even though they started on the West Coast, and they would get to watch us," said a smiling Cora, after witnessing the White Sox fight back from two strikes away from defeat in the 14th inning to claim a thrilling 10-8 victory over the Tigers, who are now all but afterthoughts in the American League Central race.
There are too many heroes to list in this particular win, ending a two-game losing streak for the White Sox. Alexei Ramirez tied the game with a home run off Kyle Farnsworth with two outs in the eighth, and Paul Konerko's sixth-inning blast helped the South Siders creep back from a 6-1 deficit.
Ultimately, Swisher will be featured on all of the highlight reels. He launched a 2-1, knee-high fastball from hard-throwing Joel Zumaya (0-1) for the game-winning three-run home run just to the right of center, coming with two outs and two on in the 14th and the White Sox down by an 8-7 margin.
When Swisher made initial contact, he wasn't sure if the ball would carry out because of the manner in which center fielder Curtis Granderson moved back toward the wall. Granderson eventually ran out of room, setting off a celebration at home plate as Swisher crossed with his 16th long ball of the season.
Orlando Cabrera started the 14th-inning uprising with a single to left, followed one out later by Carlos Quentin's double to right -- marking his fourth hit in seven at-bats. Cabrera scored on shortstop Edgar Renteria's rare error committed while fielding Jermaine Dye's slow roller, but Zumaya struck out Jim Thome to keep the tying run at third.
Quentin stayed there for a few moments, until Swisher connected.
"He basically waited the whole game to hit," said Cora of Swisher, who did not start on Tuesday but entered the game in the 11th and struck out in his one previous at-bat. "Zumaya is one of the toughest relievers to hit off of, and to hit like that in the 14th after waiting, it's unreal."
"It feels like you're hitting by sound, at that point," added a jubilant Swisher on tackling the challenge posed by Zumaya and his 100-mph fastball. "He's one of those guys that throws a very plus-plus fastball, and in that situation, all you can do is put the bat on the ball. You generate so much power on his fastball that if you hit the ball solidly -- which is rare -- it's gonna go a long way."
Zumaya walked past Swisher in the U.S. Cellular corridor running next to the clubhouses after the loss, and tapped him on the leg, indicating Swisher won this particular battle. But if Swisher gets the win, then the entire bullpen gets the save on this evening.
And that's no exaggeration. Gavin Floyd lasted only four-plus innings, and the entire seven-man bullpen allowed three runs on seven hits over the next 10 innings, while fanning nine. Ehren Wassermann allowed one run in the fifth, but the Tigers (55-57) didn't score again until Placido Polanco's two-run home run in the top of the 14th gave Detroit an 8-6 lead.
In fairness to Thornton, he was working in his third inning and had struck out a career-high five prior to Polanco's second two-run shot of the night.
"Thornton didn't let us ask if he was all right to pitch that last inning," Cora said. "He said, 'I'm all right. I got it.' It was a [total] effort by the whole bullpen. They stepped up big time."
"Today, we did a great job and gave a chance to our team to come back like we did," added Octavio Dotel, who threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.
Overshadowed by the White Sox rally from 6-1 and 8-6 deficits was the home debut for Ken Griffey Jr. as part of the White Sox. Griffey struck out three times and knocked out one single in six at-bats, but appreciated the standing ovation presented by the crowd of 35,371 prior to his first trip to the plate.
"I can count probably four other times that it's been like this, going back to Seattle," said Griffey of the huge show of appreciation. "500, 600 [home runs], things like that, and probably Cincinnati the first time."
The White Sox improved to 62-49 with the victory and took sole possession of the division's top spot after Joe Nathan blew a rare save in Seattle and the Mariners won their second straight. Minnesota (62-51) actually took the lead at Safeco Field about the same time Polanco homered, spelling impending doom for the White Sox.
Approximately 10 minutes later, the White Sox were celebrating a huge victory to begin this all-important 10-game homestand against the Tigers, Red Sox and Royals. The victory also kept Cora a perfect 2-0 as a fill-in manager.
"Ozzie can have this," said Cora, drawing a laugh after surviving Tuesday's marathon.
"Hopefully this is that momentum boost that we need," Swisher continued.
"A little bit of everything in the first four days, but I'm glad I'm here," Griffey added. "And I want to see more of it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.