Little did the crowd know how their raucous cheering and screaming through the anthem, a Blackhawks' tradition at the United Center, would only warm them up for vocal support of the White Sox on this night.
"I've been wearing this uniform for a long time, and I don't remember not even the World Series, playoffs, last game with the Minnesota Twins, people got so pumped up with the national anthem," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "That's special. Being here for that long and seeing people get into the game that way was outstanding.
"If you don't get motivated over that, you don't get ready for any game," Guillen said.
Even with that extra motivation and the palpable buzz, Freddy Garcia (11-5) and the White Sox (70-58) spotted the Yankees (78-50) a 1-0 lead in the first. Brett Gardner opened with an infield single and went all the way to third thanks to Garcia's throwing error on the play. Gardner came home on Derek Jeter's ground out.
Aside from Sergio Mitre's 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and Nick Swisher's ninth-inning home run off Scott Linebrink, that Gardner run pretty much summed up the night's highlights for the Yankees. Garcia had a great deal to do with this rude welcome to Chicago for the defending champs.
Garcia gave up just one earned run over seven innings, striking out three and walking one among his 111 pitches. He won for the first time since July 29 against Seattle but has deserved a better record. Blown saves in Garcia starts on July 18 at Target Field and Aug. 21 at Kauffman Stadium cost the right-hander at least two victories.
"Freddy changes speeds. He's got four offspeed pitches," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "You're not going to see a lot of fastballs. He's going to make you hit his pitches."
"To me, when Freddy has a two-, three-, four-run lead, then he can make his pitch without saying, 'I can't walk this guy,'" said Guillen of Garcia, who has an 8-2 record over his past 16 starts. "When you do that, you have the freedom to go with the flow of the game, and I think it makes him a better pitcher."
Four-run innings in the first and the fourth off of A.J. Burnett (9-12) made Garcia a better pitcher on Friday. A.J. Pierzynski doubled home two in the opening frame, raising his average to .417 over his past 12 games. Omar Vizquel and Juan Pierre added two hits apiece, with Vizquel driving home two, as the White Sox cruised to a 3-1 record on this six-game homestand and improved to 11-15 against the American League East.
"We jumped early, take advantage of A.J. a little while," said Guillen of Burnett, who allowed eight earned runs over 3 1/3 innings. "Scored some runs early in the game and that gave you momentum for the game, gave Freddy a little support and cushion so Freddy can pitch like Freddy."
Most of Friday's early news dealt with Manny Ramirez and the White Sox reportedly being awarded the claim off waivers for the talented outfielder. The media frenzy in search of Ramirez information certainly didn't weigh on the team.
Actually, the offense made a statement that it looks pretty good as is, especially at home, where the White Sox have a 25-7 record since June 9.
"You never go looking for or seeking help," said White Sox captain and first baseman Paul Konerko in support of the offense. "I think we've shown as a team that we have been really capable of beating any team or any pitcher at any time.
"It's just a matter of being consistent and doing that. We're still 3 1/2 games out with 35 games to go. It's really simple math. We just have to wait and see how it plays out."
That 3 1/2-game deficit in the AL Central was assumed, as the Twins held a four-run lead late over the Mariners. Of greater importance than the Twins' outcome was the spark from the White Sox, missing during a 5-11 funk coming into the homestand.
CC Sabathia stands next on the White Sox hit list. But they will have to accomplish a victory on Saturday without any championship encouragement.
"I think the trophies were probably the coolest thing I've seen in a long time, to have all four of them here," Pierzynski said. "It was a fun game. It was great. It was a big crowd, excited crowd. To jump on them early, it was big to get the crowd into it."
"Pressure is always there, especially in Chicago," said Pierre, when asked if the trophy display added any extra weight on the White Sox collective shoulders. "They want to win. They don't care about nothing else but winning. Hopefully we can bring it home this year. We're definitely working toward it."