How did a White Sox offense that had managed just two hits through the first six innings, overcome a six-run deficit in the final three innings against one of the best bullpens in the American League to give their slugger one last shot at the historic home run?
For Thome and the rest of the White Sox, it doesn't matter how it happened, but simply that it did. The affable slugger took advantage of the late Sox rally, hitting the 500th home run of his illustrious career in his fifth at-bat of the ballgame to give the South Siders a 9-7 walk-off win over the Angels.
Thome blasted a 3-2 pitch from Angels reliever Dustin Moseley 426 feet over the left-center-field fence, not only becoming the 23rd player in Major League history to reach the 500-homer plateau, but also giving the White Sox the win on coincidentally, Jim Thome Bobblehead Day.
"If somebody deserves to have something like this, it's Jim Thome," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "On the field, off the field, he's a great man. I called it. I told [Jermaine Dye], who was sitting next to me, 'Watch this, this kid's going to hit a walk-off home run to win the game.' Good things happen to good people, and you've got it right there."
The last-inning heroics would not have been possible without a big team effort to overcome a late 7-1 deficit. Thome was 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his first four trips to the plate, and if for the rally, that would have been it.
But instead, the White Sox came back from six runs behind for the second time this week, using a three-run home run from Josh Fields and a two-run blast from Danny Richar to keep the game alive and get Thome one more shot at history.
"At that time, we were calculating what it would take to get him another at-bat," said Fields, who was hitting directly in front of Thome in the batting order. "The toughest part on me was trying to extend the inning. If there were two outs, I wanted to do anything I could to get him up. The worst thing is striking out with two outs and him not being able to come up."
"You got to commend our club," Thome said. "We battled. We kept fighting back. As the game goes on you're thinking about winning the game, let's win the game, and I wasn't even worried about was I going to get another at-bat or not. You play the game and how it all plays out, you go with it."
Fields delivered in the seventh inning with a three-run shot off Chirs Bootcheck that cut the Angels' lead to just two runs.
Richar's eighth-inning blast tied the game at 7, and almost guaranteed that Thome would get at least one more at-bat.
Darin Erstad then led off the ninth inning with a base hit to right field, setting up Thome's game-winner.
The home run came on what turned out to be the last at-bat of a nine-game homestand at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox play in Kansas City on Monday for the first game of a seven-game road trip and it was highly unlikely that if Thome didn't hit it in that final at-bat, 500 would have come away from Chicago.
"Just can't believe it," said Thome, who went 2-for-13 between home runs Nos. 499 and 500. "I really can't. The crowd and just the way they hung in there all weekend long, kind of the downs, they had a lot of downs all weekend, I would never have imagined doing that as a walk-off. Just amazing to see your teammates standing there. It's like a movie script."
"This game went so well," Guillen said. "I believe in destiny. It was 7-1, and when he got the last strikeout, I said, 'Wow.' I just told a couple of my coaches, 'Ah, we've got to do it in Kansas City tomorrow. He's going to hit it in the back of the water.' The home run by Richar and Erstad came out and got the base hit, everything went well for us."
The Angels late-inning bullpen collapse spoiled a brilliant start from Joe Saunders. The southpaw gave up just two hits and one run in six innings of work, but came away empty-handed.
"I think at some point we'll be happy for Jim," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. "But right now, it is tough."
"They came back and beat us. You're not going to put any win in the bank until you get that last out. Something uncharacteristically happened to us. We gave up eight runs in three innings out of our bullpen and that doesn't happen to us."
Mark Buehrle came out winless in his seventh straight start, giving up seven runs, six earned, in 6 1/3 innings. The Angels jumped out to an early lead on a home run from Vladimir Gurrero and never trailed until the final play of the game.
Alex Gyr is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.