Thome's 521st career home run capped a five-run seventh inning, and the White Sox scored a season high in runs as they clobbered the Pirates, 16-5, at U.S. Cellular Field. The win halted a losing trend that saw Chicago lose five of its last six and average just 2.8 runs per game in that span.
Thome's homer tied him for 16th on the all-time list with Willie McCovey and Ted Williams. Just being mentioned in the same breath as two of the game's greats was difficult for the slugger to fathom.
"Hard to imagine -- it really is," Thome said. "I remember my dad talking about Ted Williams -- what a great hitter he was and just the great things he did. And just to be mentioned in that group is very special. It's hard to imagine being in the same class or the same group as those names."
"Those names ring forever," added catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "They are unbelievable players, incredible players. For Jim, you couldn't be happier for as good of a guy as he is for the career he has had. I know I've been back there when he's hit a lot of them. It means a lot to see it and how special it is. It's just amazing."
Every White Sox starter reached base at least twice, and all of them scored at least once.
Nick Swisher appears to be well out of his prolonged slump, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, two walks and three runs scored.
Even DeWayne Wise, who was recalled before the game to replace the injured Paul Konerko on the roster, got in on the extravaganza, singling twice and scoring. The hits were his first in a White Sox uniform.
"Well, we gotta get it when we gotta get it," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of the team's breakthrough. "Hopefully this week is the one where we explode and we swing the bat the way we know we can swing the bats. ... I think all those guys put good at-bats together."
The game went back and forth early, with the lead changing sides three times in the first three innings. A 5-5 tie was broken up in the fifth when a fielding gaffe by Jason Michaels turned into a Crede double and allowed the White Sox to score the go-ahead run. Then the floodgates were open.
Swisher walked to lead off the inning, and Crede lined Pittsburgh starter Ian Snell's offering to left. Michaels came charging in to make the play, but the ball sailed over him, bouncing off his glove and rolling all the way to the wall. Swisher came around to score from first base, and Crede reached third on the throw home.
Crede scored on Alexei Ramirez's second RBI single of the game to give the White Sox a 7-5 lead. But that was only the beginning.
Pirates relievers couldn't stop the bleeding. Franquelis Osoria, Marino Salas and Sean Burnett gave up nine runs in relief of Snell (3-7).
"You guys wanted consistent, so we thought we would be consistent," Swisher said. "It was a one-through-nine effort, and guys off the bench came in and got [at-bats]. It's nice to build off these games. The big thing was Javy [Vazquez] battled and gutted it out so much. We wanted to get him that win.
It's rare for the White Sox offense to overshadow the performance of their starting pitcher, but that was the case Tuesday. Vazquez (7-5) worked through six innings, giving up five runs while striking out three. As Swisher said, though, his performance was good enough to pick up the win.
The majority of the damage came during the second inning. Vazquez walked Ryan Doumit to open the frame, and he proceeded to give up four consecutive hits and a sacrifice fly during a four-run inning, surrendering the team's early 2-0 lead.
"Besides that second inning, I thought I threw the ball better. But the guys went out there and put on a show out there," Vazquez said. "You have to forget. As a pitcher, you give up four in an inning, [and] you have to forget about it. There's a lot left in the game, and you just have to battle and keep working and hopefully your team will score a lot of runs -- and that's what they did today."
"He struggled," Guillen added. "He struggled all game long, and was a little bit erratic, but he went out and got the innings. When you're erratic like that and you pitch six innings, it helps the ballclub. It wasn't his best game, but a win is a win, and he battled through it."
If the White Sox offense keeps displaying the kind of potential it flashed on Tuesday, though, the team can handle a rough outing from its starter.
David Just is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.