White Sox win AL Central title
By Rick Gano
CHICAGO ó For the first time in more than a century, Chicago has two chances at a championship.
A big swing by Jim Thome, a strong throw from Ken Griffey Jr. and the marvelous pitching of John Danks helped the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 1-0 on Tuesday night to finally decide an AL Central winner.
The White Sox joined the crosstown Cubs in the postseason, the first time since 1906 that both Chicago teams made it.
iSpecial,î Thome said. iIt just proves that Chicago is a great baseball city. Weíre so happy from our end that Sox fans get to enjoy this.î
Next up for the South Siders, a first-round matchup with the surprising Rays. Game 1 is Thursday at Tampa Bay.
Danks pitched eight innings of two-hit ball on short rest, Thome broke a scoreless tie with a mammoth homer to center and Griffey threw out a runner at the plate with a tough tag by A.J. Pierzynski as the White Sox won a 163rd-game tiebreaker.
iThat play, all I had to do was make a good throw,î Griffey said. iThe credit is all A.J. I put a two-hopper in there, and he was able to get it and block the plate. Thatís the key there. He put his body on the line for us.î
Thomeís long drive on a 2-2 pitch from rookie Nick Blackburn cleared two rows of shrubs in center field, traveling an estimated 461 feet to snap a scoreless tie in the seventh.
It was the 541st homer for Thome, who hadnít been to the playoffs since 2001 with Cleveland.
iI was telling my wife before I left the house, ëYou know if we get in, Iím going to really cherish every moment of it,í î Thome said.
Griffey, who came to the White Sox in a trade, cut down Michael Cuddyer with a nice throw in the fifth. Griffey, who like Thome is 38, will be making his first postseason appearance since 1997.
Bobby Jenks worked a perfect ninth for his 30th save. After replacing Griffey in center, Brian Anderson ended it with a diving catch of Alexi Casillaís blooper.
iYou never want to put 162 games all into one game, but thatís what ended up happening,î Twins slugger Justin Morneau said. iItís going to hurt for a while, and itís going to be a long night for sure.î
Soon after it was over, Pierzynski, Danks and Nick Swisher addressed the delirious crowd.
Danks, pitching on three daysí rest for the first time in his career and with just one win in his previous seven starts, held the Twins hitless through the first four innings.
The White Sox hosted the game because they won a coin flip earlier this month.
What an advantage it was: Chicago went 8-2 against the Twins at home this season and 1-8 at the Metrodome.
iThatís a battle between friends,î Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. iWe just got the last laugh.î
The White Sox relied more on power, the Twins on speed. But going into the game they not only were 88-74, they had identical marks at home (53-28), on the road (35-46) and in their division (43-29).
iThat probably says we should be playing this game,î Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said beforehand.