White Sox streak ends in extra innings

White Sox streak ends in extra innings

CHICAGO -- There's something about Sunday night games on ESPN, big deficits and the White Sox that come together and seem to create the highest level of excitement for the defending World Series champions in 2006.

Trailing by seven runs after seven innings against the Astros, Ozzie Guillen pulled regulars Jermaine Dye and Joe Crede just to give them a few extra innings of rest prior to Monday's off-day. Two innings later, the White Sox manager probably wished he still had their productive bats in the lineup.

Behind Tadahito Iguchi's one-man show of force, the White Sox scored seven runs in the final two frames to force extra innings. Houston (38-38) pushed across a run in the 13th to claim a 10-9 victory before the boisterous fans remaining from the franchise-record 18th sellout at U.S. Cellular Field, but the final score seemed relatively immaterial compared to the rally.

Iguchi, who hadn't homered since May 20, hit his seventh home run of the season with two men on in the eighth off of Russ Springer. That 370-foot blast was only the appetizer.

With two outs in the ninth and A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Cintron and Scott Podsednik on base, Iguchi launched a 1-1 pitch from beleaguered Houston closer Brad Lidge into the left-center-field stands for his second grand slam this season. Apparently, ninth innings at U.S. Cellular don't agree with Lidge, who gave up Podsednik's walk-off home run in Game 2 of the World Series last October.

The White Sox hit a grand slam in every game of this series, with Podsednik and Crede preceding Iguchi's heroics. Guillen's crew became the first team to hit grand slams in three straight games since Detroit did the same from Aug. 10-12, 1993, and it marked the first time in franchise history the White Sox accomplished such a feat.

Iguchi's seven RBIs were a career high. Sunday also marked the largest comeback for the White Sox since June 28, 2002, when they rallied from an 8-0 deficit against the Cubs to claim a 13-9 victory. The extra-inning loss couldn't dampen the White Sox encouragement gained from their fight-to-the-finish attitude.

"The team never gives up," said Iguchi, who Guillen referred to as "Sadaharu Oh" after the game. "Being able to come back from that kind of deficit is showing the other team and showing the rest of the teams in the league that we are the world champions. That's what we did last year and that's what we want to do this year."

"One thing about this ballclub is it never quits," added Guillen, whose team slipped to 10-2 in Interleague games and fell 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central. "I feel proud of the ballcub because [the players] fight. They don't let the fans down. They did whatever they could to try to win the game."

While Lidge relived his October nightmare, Roy Oswalt did what he couldn't do in the 2005 World Series and shut down the White Sox (49-26) over seven innings. The right-hander allowed two runs on five hits, striking out seven, including Jim Thome in three separate at-bats.

Coupled with one fifth-inning lapse from White Sox starter Javier Vazquez, it looked to be more than enough for Houston to put an end to the White Sox nine-game winning streak. The Astros held only a 2-1 lead entering the fifth, when Adam Everett led off the frame with a double. He was sacrificed to third by Willy Taveras, but Vazquez battled back to strike out Craig Biggio.

Vazquez got two quick strikes on Mike Lamb, before firing an 0-2 fastball down the middle of the plate that Lamb launched into the right-field stands for his sixth home run. Vazquez threw his arms up in the air in disgust as soon as Lamb made contact, and snapped his glove when catching the new baseball thrown to him by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez.

The home run unnerved the right-hander, who walked Chris Burke on four pitches, and then yielded Lance Berkman's 21st home run.

"He left the pitch right over the plate on the home run and all of a sudden he loses concentration a little bit," said Guillen.

Paul Konerko's home run leading off the seventh stood as the White Sox primary offensive highlight, until Iguchi took off. It was Konerko's 19th home run and 60th RBI, also giving him 222 home runs for his White Sox career, moving Konerko ahead of Harold Baines into second place all-time in franchise history.

Passing Baines was an honor for Konerko, who referred to the White Sox first-base coach as "a legend" and "a great guy as well." But Konerko would have traded the home run for the victory, which the Astros produced on Everett's bloop leadoff triple down the right-field line off of Brandon McCarthy (3-4) and Taveras' ensuing single.

The wild ending even had Mark Buehrle, Tuesday's scheduled starter in Pittsburgh, down in the bullpen and ready to pitch if needed. But it simply was a typical Sunday night at the ballpark for the White Sox. On May 14 in Minnesota, the Twins scored seven runs in the first inning off of Buehrle, but the White Sox fought back for a 9-7 victory.

On June 11, the White Sox trailed, 10-2, in the ninth to Cleveland, before raising the Indians' blood pressure with six in the final frame. Much like that contest two weeks ago, the White Sox went down, but not without an amazing fight.

"I'm really upset that in the end we did lose," Iguchi said. "But I'm happy that we were able to create a game like this, that we were able to come back from such a deficit."

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