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Beckham's walk-off caps Sox thriller

Beckham's walk-off caps thriller

CHICAGO -- Saturday's 8-7 victory for the White Sox over the Cubs before 39,529 at U.S. Cellular Field was somewhat akin to watching an entertaining but not particularly well-made movie for three hours, leading up to a spine-tingling ending that will be talked about for weeks on end.

And Gordon Beckham receives top-billing in this four-star finish.

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With the game tied at 7 and pinch-runner Josh Fields representing the winning run on second, the rookie ripped a single to right-center on the first pitch from reliever Jose Ascanio. Beckham's shot pushed his average to .200, but that number meant precious little to the phenom as A.J. Pierzynski and Jim Thome came charging at him as the celebration began when he rounded first base.

Beckham's second hit of the game made a loser of Sean Marshall (3-6), who yielded Paul Konerko's one-out single, and evened the exciting but grueling lifetime series between the two at 35 wins apiece. This particular victory took 3 hours, 31 minutes to complete in regulation, with quick-working Mark Buehrle and Ryan Dempster as the starters.

"These games, we were just talking about it, it's amazing how this rivalry is so dead even, not only in the actual wins and losses, but the games are so close," Konerko said. "There are not too many games that are more than a couple of runs apart."

"Everyone is a little drained," Beckham said. "That was such an intense game, back and forth. They kept fighting, we kept fighting. We came out on top, so it was good."

This game actually could have been in the win column much earlier for the White Sox (36-38) if not for three errors that led to three unearned runs. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez committed two miscues, raising his season total to 10, including a throwing error on Ryan Freel's grounder to open the eighth that led to the go-ahead run scoring.

Freel moved to third on Kosuke Fukudome's single to right off Aaron Poreda and came home on Andres Blanco's grounder to Ramirez with the infield in. Ramirez looked Freel back quickly on the Blanco grounder, after Freel made a quick break, but didn't look him back far enough, as Freel raced home and slid in just ahead of Konerko's throw to Pierzynski after Ramirez went to first.

"He should have held the ball a little longer to see what decision he was going to make," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Ramirez's play on Freel. "The runner was halfway as soon as he delivered the ball to first base. He was making his mind up as soon as he delivered the ball. That's a great heads-up play for Freel."

"We gave away four or five runs today," said Buehrle of the White Sox defense, which has committed 12 errors in the last seven games. "We should have had that game in the books earlier. Sometimes, that's the way the game goes."

Ramirez redeemed himself in the bottom of the eighth, with two outs and Beckham on second after a leadoff single against Carlos Marmol. Despite being down in the count at 0-2 and Marmol throwing a pretty good slider low and off the plate, Ramirez hooked it past shortstop Ryan Theriot to bring home Beckham.

"That's the good thing about baseball," Guillen said. "We still made a lot of mistakes, but you have the opportunity to come back and do good stuff."

"Both teams kind of, and the records indicate that, they have some fights within," said Konerko of the Crosstown Showdown between two sub-.500 teams. "It's kind of a different series because both teams are kind of fighting themselves at times out there. It's just a question of who is going to do that last little bit to get over the hump and win the game."

It was an honor that belonged Saturday to Beckham, who helped make up for a third-inning error that contributed to two unearned runs scoring. Pinch-hitter Jayson Nix actually set the stage for Beckham by drawing a walk off Ascanio to extend the inning.

Striking the next pitch solidly for the game-winner just might help raise the comfort level for a young man who certainly has never lacked confidence.

"You have to be very confident, or else you'll struggle," Beckham said. "I'm still trying as hard as I can. It's not going to work out all the time."

"I'm happy for him," said Konerko. "That's a big moment. He's been working like a dog up here, and it's nice to see him get rewarded with the biggest hit of his career so far."

Scott Podsednik joined Beckham on the White Sox hero list by matching his career high with four hits, finishing a triple short of hitting for the cycle, and picking up three RBIs. Poreda, Octavio Dotel and Bobby Jenks (2-2) combined for two innings of scoreless relief, and the team finished 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Still, this victory did not exhibit perfectly executed dominance. It's a hard result to pull off in this heated rivalry.

Carlos Zambrano and John Danks take the mound on Sunday, with the weekend series and the all-time series lead on the line. Word of mouth from Saturday's finish should have the masses back again for Chicago's featured attraction.

"It was one of those games that was nice to be on the winning end of it," Konerko said. "But that took a lot out of both teams."

"We'll take the win," Thome said. "It was a great, great game for the city of Chicago. You look at the way it played out, both teams battled. Offensively, when both teams needed to get a big hit, both did. We were fortunate that we got the last one."

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

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