Floyd handles Halos as White Sox soar

Floyd handles Halos as Sox soar

CHICAGO -- As Ozzie Guillen walked toward the mound in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 6-2 victory for the White Sox over the Angels before 32,167 at U.S. Cellular Field, Gavin Floyd didn't really know what to expect.

Floyd (9-6) had been masterful during the contest, limiting the Angels (63-42) to one unearned run over the previous 7 2/3 innings. But with the White Sox protecting a 5-1 lead, runners on second and third and one of the game's best run-producers in Bobby Abreu at the plate, the right-hander thought his night might be over.

"I was hoping not," said Floyd with a laugh of his mound meeting with the White Sox manager. "But you never know with Ozzie, because sometimes he comes out there walking fast, and then all of a sudden he's like, 'You all right?'

"Or he'll come out and be like, 'Nice job,' or 'Go get them next time.' We had a game plan that at-bat to try to get him out and executed some good pitches."

It took Floyd four pitches to dispense Abreu with a called third strike, thus completing eight innings, saving an undermanned bullpen and earning one of two thunderous standing ovations. Floyd needed help from Matt Thornton in the ninth, when Floyd gave up his only earned run, but he still emerged with career victory No. 1 over the Angels.

Wednesday's effort improved Floyd's home mark to 5-0 with a minuscule 1.54 ERA over his past eight starts at U.S. Cellular. That success at such a hitter-friendly ballpark was hard for Floyd to explain.

Actually, it was darn near impossible for the baffled young hurler.

"This park is pretty notorious for the wind blowing out and balls carrying, so you just try to execute your pitch and whatever happens, happens," said Floyd, who struck out six, walked one and threw 105 pitches. "But I don't have an explanation."

Explaining a second straight victory for the White Sox (56-52) over the Angels and their fifth win in six games on this 10-game homestand stands as a fairly simple task. Floyd did the pitching, and Jim Thome did the slugging.

Thome launched at least two home runs in the same game for the 44th time in his illustrious career and for the third time this season. He now has 20 home runs in 2009 and 561 for his career, putting him just two behind Reggie Jackson for 12th place on Major League Baseball's all-time list.

In his last 21 games, Thome has knocked out seven home runs and picked up 23 RBIs. He seems to be getting on one of those long-ball terrors that strikes fear into opposing hurlers.

"When Jim gets hot, he's as good as anybody," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, whose two hits raised his average to .313. "When he's hitting the ball to left field, that's something that you look for as a sign for him to get really hot. Hopefully, he can go out there and carry us for a couple weeks. That'd be nice."

"Well, you hope," said Thome of the potential hot streak. "It's one of those things where you look at the game, and it's nice to contribute and do well -- especially against a team like this, who has been playing extremely well."

The first Thome home run came with two outs in the fourth off of Sean O'Sullivan (3-1), erasing a three-base error committed by Jermaine Dye in the first to give the Angels an early 1-0 lead. Thome then went deep in the sixth off of left-handed reliever Darren Oliver, scoring Gordon Beckham and Dye ahead of him for a 5-1 advantage.

Paul Konerko, who produced his 300th career double in the fifth, added his 21st home run off of Angels closer Brian Fuentes in the eighth to cap the scoring. Every starter but Carlos Quentin and Chris Getz had at least one hit, as the White Sox won their seventh straight home series, the longest streak since winning nine in a row in 2003.

Putting up a 5-1 record against the Yankees and Angels has been an especially important stretch of success for the White Sox, and not just because of the elevated competition they are facing. This run has moved them back within one game of the Tigers in the race for the American League Central title and has helped to erase the 1-6 road trip through Detroit and Minneapolis.

"Coming home after Minnesota and getting here, we knew this homestand we had to play well," Thome said. "And we have, but we still have a lot more to do and a lot more to accomplish."

"One thing about this ballclub, everybody goes out there and contributes," Guillen said.

Strong contributions from Floyd have been coming since May 22, when he put an end to a rather shaky start to the season. From that point moving forward, Floyd has a 7-2 record with a 2.24 ERA in 14 starts covering 100 2/3 innings.

Against the Angels, Guillen also gave Floyd a chance to bolster his confidence. And Floyd didn't let down his manager, fanning the Angels' top RBI man to cap off a deep and effective performance benefiting the entire staff.

"He never gives in, even when he's behind in the count," said Angels catcher Mike Napoli, whose sixth-inning double was one of six Angels hits. "I saw a lot of cutters. Even the double I hit was on a cutter."

"Whether it's a bad outing before or a good outing, I kind of just ignore it and move on," Floyd said. "You have to do the job and try to forget about what happened the start before. Whatever I have that day, I just try to go out there and battle."

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