Down by one run in the ninth inning of their series opener with Detroit at Comerica Park, with nobody on base and two strikes on Carlos Quentin, the White Sox looked all but finished. Four Todd Jones pitches later, Jermaine Dye delivered arguably the biggest hit of the season for the South Siders, with his 22nd home run giving the White Sox an exhilarating 6-5 victory and silencing 44,393 fans who were standing to cheer moments earlier.
It was a game Chicago probably shouldn't have won, not with the shoddy defense played behind starter Gavin Floyd earlier in the night contributing to Detroit's early 4-1 advantage and giving the Tigers a chance to blow open this contest. And not with Scott Linebrink and Matt Thornton, two of the team's steadiest relievers all season, unavailable due to injury as the club kicked off a 10-game AL Central road trip.
Yet, there were the White Sox, exchanging high-fives on the field after Bobby Jenks earned his 20th save with a perfect ninth, and increasing their leads to 3 1/2 games over the Twins and 6 1/2 games over the Tigers. For at least this evening, Chicago ultimately featured the look of a champion.
"That's what a good team does," said exhausted White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was unhappy with his team's early effort on Friday. "You can't lay down and wait until the next day. You have to fight all the way through it. From the fifth or sixth inning on, we fought like we knew what to do."
"We never give up, and we don't quit," added Dye, whose only hit in five at-bats won the game. "It says a lot about how we go about our business every day, whether we are in a winning streak or a losing streak."
Thanks to Dye, the White Sox (58-43) are riding a three-game winning streak. But as Guillen pointed out during his postgame media session, it was Quentin's grounder past second baseman Placido Polanco with two strikes that gave Dye the chance for his heroics.
Jones fell behind with two pitches outside the zone to Dye, then tried to sneak a cut fastball past him on the outer half. Dye drove it to right-center field -- his homer cleared Magglio Ordonez and landed six or seven rows beyond the 365-foot marker.
Dye took a little leap out of the batter's box as soon as he made contact and then understatedly pumped his fist as he rounded first base. Guillen took two steps out of the dugout and jumped in the air when the ball went out.
As for Jones? He put his hands on his head after the Tigers (52-50) lost their chance to climb within 4 1/2 games of the division leader.
"Sometimes you get beat. Sometimes you beat yourself," said Jones, who was trying not to give Dye a good pitch to hit. "I don't think I beat myself tonight. I think I just got beat. Dye hit a two-run homer. I guess that's the way it goes. There's nothing I can say. He got me. I have to live with that."
"I came up with a pretty good hit," added the typically low-key Dye, who entered Friday with four hits in 18 at-bats against Jones in his career. "I got something over the plate and was ready to hit."
Detroit grabbed a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh on Carlos Guillen's one-out home run, which came after the White Sox tied the game with three runs in the top of the frame. Guillen's blast to right came against Nick Masset, who was pressed into late-inning service because of tightness in Linebrink's shoulder and Thornton's back.
D.J. Carrasco (1-0) earned Friday's victory by retiring two straight batters to close out the eighth. According to Guillen, Carrasco could move into the seventh-inning role with Octavio Dotel taking over in the eighth if Linebrink ends up on the disabled list.
Those issues will be addressed on Saturday after Linebrink has an MRI on his shoulder. On Friday, the White Sox relished their stunning come-from-behind effort, starting this road trip on a high note.
"They came in here and snuck one on the road," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland. "That's the reason they're in first place. They've played well all year. We did OK tonight, but we didn't do enough to win the game. We had opportunities to break the game open; we didn't do it."
Floyd kept the White Sox in the game by limiting the Tigers to four runs over six innings, despite throwing 109 pitches. Alexei Ramirez rapped out three hits, raising his average to .314, while Orlando Cabrera added two hits and two RBIs to the comeback effort.
Otherwise, it was a strangely ineffective overall game for the White Sox. Strangely ineffective, that is, until the team was down to its last strike.
"The only good thing about this game is we won it," Guillen said. "That's it."
"Everybody knows it's a big series for them getting back in the race," Dye added. "It was a weird game, with a lot of emotions going on. But I think we stole one."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.