Trio of homers lifts White Sox past Tribe
Thome, Uribe and Konerko go deep to avoid sweep
CHICAGO -- Jim Thome is renowned for being one of the truly selfless players in baseball. During Wednesday's game at U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox slugger was generous enough to help his team to the win, while still coming out with a little something for himself.
Thome slugged the 499th home run of his illustrious career, but also singled twice and drove in three runs to help the Sox avoid a sweep with a 7-4 victory over Cleveland.
Jake Westbrook will go in the record books as the man that gave up 499, Thome's 27th of the season. The Indians starter grooved a 2-0 fastball in the fourth inning that the White Sox slugger lined over the fence, just inside the right-field foul pole, for a solo home run.
Thome had two chances to become the first player ever to hit home runs 499 and 500 in the same game, but settled for two singles instead. His fifth-inning base hit drove in a pair of runs and after singling in the seventh, he came in to score on a Paul Konerko home run.
And while both of Thome's base hits found holes on the right side of the infield, he admitted after the game that he was swinging for the fences looking for 500.
"Yeah, I was trying to get a pitch to drive," Thome said. "The one, I almost fouled it out of the stadium. I got a little quick on it. But there's a lot of emotion, there's a lot of emotion that goes through you. That's what makes it so tough to do, trying to control that emotion and keep those emotions in, but be ready to hit."
Thome gets three more games to try to hit the historic long ball at U.S. Cellular Field before the Sox head out on their final road trip of the season. The Angels visit the South Side starting Friday for a three-game series. The Sox head to Kansas City on Monday.
"He has three more games, hopefully he comes through in those three games," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It's always nice to see something like that, especially the way we're going. I see his teammates get so excited and I see his wife and daughter so close to that and I see the ball changing [to the marked balls] -- all that stuff, it's something real nice to be a part of that."
One of the best parts for Thome is that the long ball came in a winning effort. He declined to talk to the media after hitting 498 in a 5-2 loss to Minnesota on Sunday, but was his usual upbeat self after Wednesday's victory.
"It's been pretty awesome," Thome said. "It's kind of reality now. It's getting close."
Javier Vazquez was the beneficiary of Thome's big offensive day and he took full advantage. The Sox starter had his best outing since mid-August, going 6 1/3 innings, while giving up two runs, one earned, and striking out nine.
After a long first two innings, in which the Indians picked up three of their six hits against Vazquez, the veteran right-hander took control. He retired 11 straight hitters from the third inning through the sixth and struck out six in a row at one point.
"He was struggling in the beginning of the game, then all of a sudden, he starts throwing the ball and he was real good. He was dominating, he was throwing strikes, he got real short innings when he needed them," Guillen said. "He's been like that almost all year long."
Vazquez looked like he had for most of the season on Wednesday -- reliable and in control. He moved to 7-2 with a 3.40 ERA against American League Central opposition this year and has gone 9-3 in his last 16 starts.
"We didn't want [the season] to be this way," Vazquez said. "But on one part, I can look at my season and say, at least, I was pretty consistent. Last year, I wasn't as consistent as I wanted to be and this year, I have been much more consistent."
Shortstop Juan Uribe stayed hot on Wednesday, hitting his third home run in the last two days, leaving him one short of hitting 20 long balls for the third time in his career.
"I think the next game we're going to [honor] Uribe's 20th for the season," Guillen joked. "He swings the bat good. I think Uribe doesn't know how good he is because this kid can go out there and do some damage."
Konerko's home run did not come without a little controversy. It appeared that the ball landed just foul down the left-field line, but the third-base umpire, Rob Drake, ruled that it ricocheted off the foul pole. The seventh inning blast gave the White Sox their largest lead of the game at 7-2.
With the three home runs, the Sox have hit 169 this season. They need 31 in their last 16 games to become the only team in Major League history to hit 200 home runs for eight straight seasons.
Alex Gyr is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.