Minnesota (69-72) broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth at U.S. Cellular Field by scoring six runs against relievers Mike Myers, Mike MacDougal and Boone Logan, punctuated by Rondell White's three-run blast off Logan. The rally featured third baseman Alex Cintron's throwing error to open up the floodgates and continued shoddy bullpen work, two unfortunate trademarks for this current group.
Those six runs actually turned out to be too much and not enough at the same time for the Twins. Protecting the big margin, manager Ron Gardenhire elected to go with Julio DePaula instead of closer Joe Nathan -- a move he would regret approximately one hour later.
DePaula threw 13 pitches, and none of them resulted in outs. Danny Richar singled, Cintron singled, Luis Terrero reached on a broken-bat infield single and Josh Fields doubled home two runs. When Thome connected on a second straight fastball from DePaula for a 430-foot home run to center, the White Sox had cut the margin to 10-9.
"Obviously, if the game is closer, DePaula is not going to be pitching," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who watched 19 hitters combined step to the plate during the 12-run ninth inning. "I don't remember seeing anything where both sides did what they did. It was kind of a crazy, ugly game."
"Not in the ninth like that," added Thome, when asked if he had ever seen a rally like the White Sox put together in his entire 17-year-career. "It was pretty special."
So special, in fact, that when Darin Erstad doubled off Nathan to score pinch-runner Scott Podsednik with the game-tying run, it marked the first time in franchise history the White Sox were down by six or more in the ninth and came back to tie. The game lasted just short of another four innings, with Bobby Jenks throwing two scoreless innings and rookie Heath Phillips ending the Twins' half of the 13th by picking off Michael Cuddyer from first base.
Terrero started the deciding rally by drawing a walk from Juan Rincon (3-3) and moving to second on Fields' sacrifice. Thome was intentionally walked, and Podsednik reached base on Nick Punto's error, when second-base umpire Joe West broke with tradition and didn't give shortstop Jason Bartlett an "in the neighborhood" call on an attempted force.
A.J. Pierzynski followed with a ground single to left, marking the White Sox sixth game-ending play and completing this four-hour, 29-minute marathon.
"That was pretty amazing, especially against their bullpen, to score six," Pierzynski said. "Especially against Nathan, once he got in the game. It was a good win and a great game, and wow, I'm glad it's over."
"It was crazy," Phillips said. "That was the first time being part of something like that, for me."
Lost in the ninth-inning histrionics were Juan Uribe's 100th home run coming in the second inning, Jenks pitching two innings for the first time since June 20 against Florida, and Phillips' first career victory. It came two days after Phillips' first career loss in Detroit.
"This side is a lot better than the other side," said Phillips with a smile. "I feel a lot better than my debut.
Lance Broadway, another September callup, also made his Major League debut during the White Sox third victory in their last five games. He pitched two-thirds of an inning in the ninth, after Logan couldn't retire a hitter, and looked as if he was simply on mop-up duty.
In fact, Terrero pinch-hit for Jerry Owens with two on and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth just to get an at-bat to stay sharp. The reserve outfielder ended up with two hits and scored the winning run.
"A few fans are going to wake up in the morning and say, 'They won the game. How
did that happen?'" said Guillen, with about half of the announced crowd of 33,448 still left for the White Sox rally in the ninth. "They left in the seventh inning. Good thing we react that way. We will have a different feel coming into tomorrow's game."
"We've battled all year long, but things haven't gone our way," Thome added. "So, this was kind of nice. Hopefully, this will give us a little momentum to end the season on a positive note."
Cleveland's loss in Anaheim kept the White Sox elimination number at one. But the White Sox staying mathematically alive had nothing to do with this victory.
During a season of poor on-field play warranting head shakes and the covering of eyes, the White Sox have one shining moment to build off for the final three weeks.
"Any time you win, especially against those guys, the way they battle, it's good," Pierzynski said.
"I really enjoyed it," Phillips added. "I hope we get some more."