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TEX@CWS: Morel's three-run homer ties the game

CHICAGO -- The three-run home run launched by Brent Morel with two outs in the fifth inning of the White Sox 4-3 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday became the rookie's first long ball of the 2011 season.

But Morel's blast held far greater importance in the context of this game than a simple statistic.

Let's call it the "Great Awakening."

"We were very flat because we didn't have good swings," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "After that home run, obviously, we came alive a little bit and things were different. He needed that one and we needed that one, just to wake up."

"That was huge, the turning point in the game," said White Sox starting pitcher John Danks of the game-tying shot. "At that point, I told myself, 'I get a fresh start now.'"

Morel's 377-foot shot to left-center followed walks issued by Rangers starter Matt Harrison to Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios, with an A.J. Pierzynski fielder's choice placed in between. Prior to Morel making contact, the White Sox (18-25) had not scored in the two games against the Rangers (22-20).

Recent history shows the White Sox weren't about to explode offensively in front of their home crowd of 22,437 and 600 canine supporters for the annual Dog Day, hitting .139 in their last four home games, and with the team now having a 2-10 record over the last 12 played at U.S. Cellular. They also had scored two runs in their previous three home contests.

Or, instead of the "Great Awakening," maybe Morel's home run should be dubbed the "Momentum Changer."

"Those three runs got us back in the game," said Morel, whose connection with Harrison's 97-mph fastball ended a 104 at-bat homerless drought. "It definitely felt like momentum from there."

"When Morel hit that three-run bomb, it just changed the momentum right there," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "Anything but that -- double, single -- anything but that three-run bomb. But that's the way baseball goes."

Going into Tuesday's series finale, there were eight Major League pitchers who had made at least five starts and had yet to win a game. Danks stands as part of this hard-luck group, but he walked away with a no-decision on this night.

Part of the reason for Danks wriggling off the hook came from Morel's bat. Danks also survived his own wild streak, as the runs scored by Texas in the first, second and the fourth began with one of his six walks, matching a career high.

Even with just 65 of his 113 pitches going for strikes, Danks managed to limit the Rangers to four hits over 6 1/3 innings and the two earned runs.

"He's swimming against the current, but he makes it to the island," said Guillen of Danks. "It was kind of ugly to see it, but he made the right pitch at the right time to get out of the situation."

"They didn't hit me very much because there weren't very many pitches to hit," said Danks with a wry smile. "I did my best to stay out of the way there after the first few innings."

Other starting pitchers who have yet to win this year are Toronto's Jo-Jo Reyes (0-3, 4.75, 8 starts), San Diego's Tim Stauffer (0-1, 3.47, 8 starts), Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez (0-3, 6.14, 7 starts), Kansas City's Jeff Francis (0-5, 4.83, 9 starts), Houston's Nelson Figueroa (0-3, 8.69, 5 starts), Arizona's Joe Saunders (0-5, 5.48, 8 starts) and the Giants' Madison Bumgarner (0-6, 4.25, 8 starts). Tuesday's comeback marked Danks' team-high sixth quality start, but became the team's first win in his nine 2011 trips to the mound.

Jesse Crain (1-1) actually earned the victory with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Sergio Santos stayed perfect in six save opportunities and extended his consecutive scoreless appearance streak to 16 and his scoreless innings streak to 20.

A one-out wild pitch from Cody Eppley (1-1) with Alexei Ramirez at the plate scored Gordon Beckham with the deciding tally, after Beckham drew a walk to open the eighth. Pinch-hitter Dallas McPherson, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Charlotte earlier in the day to replace the injured Mark Teahen, pushed Beckham to third with a one-out single to center on the first pitch he saw from Eppley.

"Yeah, that definitely was a great moment," said McPherson, who picked up his first Major League hit since Sept. 10, 2008, with the Marlins. "I'm still trying to remember. It was nice to get that one out of the way. I was looking for something to hook in the four-hole. I miscalculated the sink a little bit, and I kind of got lucky it went over the middle."

Along with the home run, Morel added two stellar, diving plays at third base to stave off potential Texas runs in the fifth and eighth innings. About his only misstep came in the bottom of the eighth, when he failed twice to bunt over Beckham with nobody out and then struck out.

With the first-place Indians coming to town for two games starting Wednesday, and the White Sox facing a 10-game deficit in the American League Central, Morel's home run was exactly what the team ordered to carry it into this important mid-May battle.

Could the home run eventually be known as 'The Season Changer?'

"Any win is a good win, but we feel like we're starting to turn it around a little bit after the road trip," Danks said. "For us to win the way we did tonight, that's big."

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