Andruw celebrates birthday with walk-off

Andruw celebrates birthday with walk-off

CHICAGO -- To get a full appreciation for Andruw Jones' heroics during the White Sox 7-6 victory over Seattle on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field, look no further than reliever J.J. Putz's Twitter account.

"Thank you Andrew Jones for saving [me]," tweeted an excited Putz, who misspelled his teammate's first name in the postgame frenzy.

It was Putz who gave up Jose Lopez's go-ahead grand slam in the top of the seventh inning, erasing a 5-2 lead for the White Sox (6-11). But after a game-tying double from Alex Rios with two outs in the seventh, it was Jones who launched the walk-off home run with two outs in the ninth against hard-throwing reliever Mark Lowe (1-2).

Jones' second home run of the night stood up as his seventh career walk-off shot and ended a two-game losing streak for the South Siders. It was made a bit more special by the combined 733 feet of home runs coming for Jones on his 33rd birthday.

And it's safe to say Jones and his family will not be the only ones celebrating his special day in Chicago on Friday night.

"I had a good feeling for the day, the way it started," said Jones, who produced the 39th multi-home run game of his career. "I was feeling really focused, and was waiting for guys to make mistakes over the plate to put good swings on them."

Solo home runs from Jones in the first, Carlos Quentin in the second and Paul Konerko leading off the sixth helped the White Sox build that three-run lead behind Gavin Floyd. Konerko now has six home runs, and Quentin's shot to left snapped an 0-for-23 drought.

Even when fortunes look on the rise for the White Sox, though, bad luck seems to follow them through the first month of this season. Seattle (9-8) loaded the bases in the seventh with one out on singles from Adam Moore and Ichiro Suzuki and a walk issued to Chone Figgins. Putz came in and promptly retired Franklin Gutierrez on a line drive to second baseman Gordon Beckham, but on a 2-1 pitch to Lopez, the Mariners' cleanup hitter drove out his first grand slam just past the outstretched leap of Jones in left.

At that dreadful point, it would have been easy for the White Sox to take a "woe is us" approach and turn their attention to Saturday afternoon. Instead, manager Ozzie Guillen saw the enthusiasm which was missing from his team over the past few days.

"One thing I saw about the ballclub today was when they took the lead with the grand slam, I looked in our dugout and they had the attitude like, 'Let's get it back,'" Guillen said. "That's what I want to see."

"We showed a lot of heart," Konerko said. "It's tough to give up that lead, and we could have given up easily in that game the way things have been going."

Rios tied the game in the bottom of the seventh with a two-strike shot despite the sprawling attempt from left fielder Eric Byrnes, scoring Beckham. Matt Thornton (2-1), the one-time Seattle hurler and now probably the most consistent White Sox reliever, held the Mariners in check with five strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings, setting the stage for the birthday celebrant.

"That's why I was begging him to get that last out because that was the last hitter Thornton was going to face," said Guillen of Thornton, who threw 20 of his 28 pitches for strikes. "I don't want to overuse him. I have to take care of that guy like a diamond. That's one of my biggest keys of the bullpen."

Floyd pitched far better than his start last Sunday in Cleveland, when he didn't retire a batter in the second and allowed seven runs. The right-hander gave up five runs on seven hits, striking out four and walking three, with three of those runs scoring on Lopez's slam off of Putz.

Those few Friday missteps were forgotten when Jones connected on a 3-2 hanging curve from Lowe. Jones fell behind 0-2 in the at-bat and then fouled off three straight pitches after working the count full, before pulling the game-winner down the left-field line.

"In a situation like that, he's a guy who throws hard, 98 or 99 [mph]," Jones said. "When he started throwing so many breaking pitches, I made my own adjustment and slowed everything down. I had a good swing."

"I'm really proud of him," said Guillen of Jones. "He came with one goal to Spring Training and wants to play every day. I remember having a conversation with him where I told him if he swings the bat good, I will play him."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jones became the first player to hit at least two home runs on his birthday, with one being a walk-off, since Alex Rodriguez on July 27, 2002, against Oakland in Texas. The bigger news for the White Sox is they have the chance to go for their second two-game winning streak of the year on Saturday behind Freddy Garcia.

"My hat is off to him," said Lowe of Jones. "I should have put him away when it was 0-and-2. I thought I made some good pitches, but he had a great at-bat. I threw a couple of sliders that a lot of guys would have swung over the top."

"To me, as a manager, besides the win, it's what I saw in the dugout after [Seattle] took the lead," Guillen said. "But we were desperate for a win."

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