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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

White Sox get the last spot

Thome's home run and a Griffey-to-Pierzynski double play help them defeat Twins, 1-0, to win the AL Central and advance to the playoffs.

October 01, 2008|Mark Gonzales | Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- There's nothing like defending your home turf in a playoff-type atmosphere.

Just ask John Danks, Jim Thome and A.J. Pierzynski. Each of them stood tall and strong in vaulting the Chicago White Sox to the American League Central title Tuesday night with a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in a pulsating tiebreaker.

Brian Anderson secured the win with a diving catch of Alexi Casilla's fly to short center field, ending the game and setting off a wild celebration before a standing-room crowd of 40,354 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Thanks to three consecutive victories, the White Sox advanced to the postseason for the second time in four seasons. They will play East champion Tampa Bay in an AL division series beginning Thursday.

Chicago had to overcome a five-game losing streak last week that included a three-game sweep at Minnesota and two straight losses to Cleveland.

The White Sox bounced back to beat the Indians in Sunday's series finale, then beat Detroit in a Monday makeup game to set the stage for Tuesday's dramatics.

"After we got swept up there, I thought we were dead," White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said.

"But to beat three different teams in three days . . . "

Danks had a 7.91 earned-run average against the Twins in four regular-season starts but redeemed himself in impressive fashion. He pitched eight innings of two-hit ball on three days' rest.

"Adrenaline carried me," Danks said.

Thome accounted for the game's only run with a solo home run against Nick Blackburn leading off the seventh inning. The blast to dead center field traveled an estimated 461 feet.

"There's no better feeling," Thome said. "This is what you live for."

Pierzynski, who began his career with Minnesota, prevented the Twins from scoring by blocking home plate and holding on to the ball after Michael Cuddyer crashed into him trying to score on a fly to center to complete an inning-ending double play in the fifth. Ken Griffey Jr. made the strong throw home.

"I don't know how I caught that ball," Pierzynski said.

"I thought the ball went flying. I didn't feel it in my glove because he hit me when the ball hit. What a feeling."

The Twins' first hit was a leadoff double by Cuddyer in the fifth. He moved to third on Delmon Young's fly to center, which set up the biggest defensive play of the game, the Griffey-to-Pierzynski double play.

Bobby Jenks earned his 30th save, working a perfect ninth that ended with Anderson's catch.

"It's unbelievable that play seals it and gets us to Tampa," Anderson said.

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