BALTIMORE -- They are called defining moments for a clear-cut reason. Maybe it's throwing a fastball by the opposing team's best hitter with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth inning or launching a walk-off home run to take down a heated rival. That moment also can extend to an entire game, or in the White Sox's situation, this weekend in Baltimore, cover a four-game series. Already entering with the best record in baseball, the White Sox took apart the fading Orioles and recorded their second four-game sweep of the season. That quartet of victories was capped off on Monday afternoon, with the South Siders claiming a 6-3 victory before a sellout crowd of 47,823 at Camden Yards.
But it was the way in which the final two games of the series played out that truly might signal out the end of July and beginning of August as a special point to circle within this amazing 2005 campaign. Mark Buehrle entered Monday's game riding a streak of 49 straight games in which he has worked at least six innings. That streak came to a close with two outs in the sixth Monday, Sammy Sosa on first base and the White Sox clinging to a 2-1 lead. Buehrle hit B.J. Surhoff near the left shoulder as he tried to turn away from a sinker that got away inside on the left-handed hitter. Homeplate umpire Brian Gorman took a step toward the mound and immediately ejected Buehrle, the first of his career, without issuing a warning. The pitch delivered by the White Sox ace came after A.J. Pierzynski was struck just above the right elbow by Daniel Cabrera (8-9) in the top of the inning and one day after manager Ozzie Guillen believes Tadahito Iguchi was hit intentionally by reliever Todd Williams. Buehrle and Pierzynski claimed it wouldn't make sense to intentionally hit someone during a one-run game. Surhoff had two hits earlier when Buehrle worked him outside, so the lefty moved in during his third at-bat. But Buehrle's lack of denial sort of spoke for itself. "We had a guy hit yesterday and then A.J. gets hit," Buehrle said. "Their catcher sets up away and the pitcher comes up and in and hits [Pierzynski]. "Obviously, you guys were out there and you've seen the game. People who know baseball know what happened. I can't comment on that, but I was surprised I got tossed." That surprise might have explained why Buehrle hit Surhoff, with the streak just one out away from being extended to 50 games. But the pitch from Buehrle was a sign of team unity, with personal statistics being pushed aside. It's the way the White Sox have played all season, moving to 34 games over .500 at 69-35, and raising their lead in the American League Central to 15 games with Minnesota playing Monday night against Oakland. Those are the numbers that really mean something to Guillen and his team. "We don't care about the streak," said Guillen of Buehrle's run coming to an end. "If Buehrle don't make the Hall of Fame because of that, then blame it on me, the team or the umpire. We are not here to break records. Our record is to win games and everyone in that room knows that." "Would I have liked to have kept it going? Yeah," Buehrle added. "It was fun while it lasted and unfortunate the way it ended. But we won the game, and I'll just start up another one." Buehrle improved to 12-4, despite the ejection, by holding the Orioles to one earned run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings. The relief combination of Luis Vizcaino, Neal Cotts, Cliff Politte, Damaso Marte and Dustin Hermanson (25th save) closed out the Orioles (51-54), but it was the offense that gave the bullpen an opportunity. Jermaine Dye knocked out three hits, including the go-ahead single after Pierzynski was hit in the sixth, and Pablo Ozuna doubled home two runs during a three-run eighth to give the White Sox a 6-1 advantage. Pierzynski added his 16th home run in the eighth inning off of reliever Jorge Julio, a drive that would seem to be a bit more special blast after what happened earlier in the game. "You said it, not me," said Pierzynski when asked about the home run's meaning. "It always feels good when you hit a home run." "My team showed what kind of people we have once again," Guillen added. "They come back and win that one for Buehrle." The White Sox battled through a "subpar" 15-11 month of July but still managed to raise their lead in the American League Central from 10 1/2 games to where it currently stands. They shredded the Orioles for four days and now return home, with the same goal in mind against the Blue Jays and the Mariners. In 2000, the last time the White Sox won a division title, a bench-clearing brawl in April with Detroit galvanized the team. In 2004, it was Minnesota's Torii Hunter running over catcher Jamie Burke at homeplate on a simple sacrifice fly that seemed to turn the momentum toward the Twins. And in 2005, it could be a beanball war in Baltimore that Guillen refused to engage in and an All-Star putting aside his own personal accolades that truly tells the story of success. "You cannot go out and start hitting people just because," Guillen said. "Maybe Cabrera didn't try to hit A.J., but I know for a fact that last night they hit Iguchi on purpose. But I didn't come here to drill people. We came here to win."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.