Better late than never: Thomas wins it

Better late than never: Thomas wins it in 13

DETROIT -- By virtue of Frank Thomas' 13th-inning solo home run and 6 2/3 scoreless innings of relief from four pitchers, the White Sox outlasted the Tigers for a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night at Comerica Park. It improved Chicago's series record to 19-5-2, with Thursday afternoon's series finale still to be played.

But that sort of victory is old news for the White Sox, who have a Major League-best 22-8 record in games decided by the slimmest of margins, and a 25-5 mark against the American League Central. It was a couple of the key characters who contributed to the team's second straight win in Detroit that truly had Ozzie Guillen beaming following four exhausting hours of baseball.

Luis Vizcaino, who hadn't pitched since working one inning against the Cubs last Friday, worked 2 1/3 innings without giving up a run. He put two runners on base in the ninth, but was bailed out of a loss by Juan Uribe's sparkling defensive play on Placido Polanco's grounder in the hole at shortstop and Paul Konerko's ensuing scoop at first base, beating Polanco's head-first slide by a couple of inches.

Those efforts set the stage for Shingo Takatsu (1-2) to finish the job. Takatsu, making his first appearance since June 21 at home against Kansas City, worked a career-high 2 2/3 innings and pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the bottom of the 13th to help the White Sox improve to 52-24 and increase their Central lead to 10 games over the Twins and 11 over the Indians.

The game ended on Polanco's grounder to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, who quickly ranged a few steps toward first to make the play. But it was a swinging strikeout of the hitter before, Brandon Inge, that turned out to be the key battle. Guillen had ordered an intentional walk of the fleet-footed Nook Logan to get to one of the Tigers' most consistent hitters.

"That pitch he struck out Inge on, he was throwing in the low 90s [mph]," said Konerko of Takatsu. "So, it looks like he has his stuff back. He threw great."

"When Inge came up, I was trying to get him on a double-play grounder, but I was able to strike him out," added Takatsu through a translator, after making his fifth straight scoreless appearance, covering 7 1/3 innings. "The last batter I faced, I threw it as hard as I could."

Takatsu and Vizcaino where joined by scoreless efforts from Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts, who relieved starter Brandon McCarthy with one out in the seventh and a runner on third. Rondell White's pinch-hit sacrifice fly tied the game and left McCarthy with his third no-decision in four starts.

Even as he watched the chance for a first career victory fade away, the 21-year-old seemed a bit more satisfied with his performance. The right-hander allowed three runs on six hits, striking out five without issuing a walk. It was a much-improved effort from his last start at home on June 20 against Kansas City, where he gave up six runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings, walking four and finishing without a strikeout.

"I still made some mistakes that I wasn't happy with, but I was a little sharper," said McCarthy, who threw 83 pitches. "A lot of things I wanted to put into play came in tonight. I definitely felt better."

Joe Crede's run-scoring single, a Jason Johnson wild pitch and Konerko's 19th home run staked the White Sox to the 3-2 lead in the third. The game stayed tied despite three golden scoring chances from the eighth inning on for the Tigers (36-38), who left 14 on base, until Thomas connected on a 2-0 pitch from Fernando Rodney (1-1) for his eighth home run of 2005 and 444th of his career.

It also was Thomas' 1,320th run scored, making him the all-time leader in that particular category for the White Sox franchise.

"Every time Frank is at the plate, you think something is going to happen," Guillen said. "His hit came in the right place because my bullpen was out of gas."

The two teams played through a majestic city-run fireworks show in the background, which started in the top of the 11th and ended in the top of the 12th, basically bringing downtown Detroit to a standstill. That feeling also swept over Guillen as far as his bullpen was concerned late in the game, as he decided to leave Takatsu in for the 13th because he was worried about having no line of pitching defense if the Tigers rallied against closer Dustin Hermanson.

Damaso Marte, who recently returned from a stretch of inactivity due to a sore left biceps, basically was unavailable because he had returned to Detroit during Wednesday's game after traveling to Chicago to attend to personal business. Takatsu went from out of sight to firmly in mind, something he suspected when pitching coach Don Cooper didn't say anything to him after Thomas' home run.

It's just another example of the White Sox's latest run as the 2005 season's team of destiny.

"I had a sense I was going out there," said Takatsu, who admitted to feeling a little nervous in his third inning of relief. "Luckily, I finished the game off. The team got the win, and that's the biggest thing. I feel glad I could help out the team."

"I'm more excited for Shingo than winning the game," Guillen added. "Him and Vizcaino did a tremendous job. I was so happy for them -- Vizcaino not to lose the game and Shingo to win the game."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.