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10/05/05 11:21 PM ET

Iguchi comes through in the clutch

White Sox one win away from ALCS after dramatic rally

CHICAGO -- Mark Buehrle tousled Tadahito Iguchi's dark hair, gave him a huge smile and ducked into the Chicago White Sox clubhouse.

Iguchi smiled, too. What better way to communicate than through the universal language of victory?

By then, after seven innings, the White Sox were clinging to a 5-4 lead, but they seemed to have a hard, firm grasp on a second-game victory over the Boston Red Sox.

And that's the way it happened with Iguchi, the Japanese import from the Fukuoka Daiea Hawks, supplying the deciding three-run homer that skimmed into the left-field bullpen.

"I knew it was out," said Jermaine Dye, watching from the on-deck circle. "He got a curveball and was able to drive it and put us ahead."

Iguchi had faced left-hander David Wells just three times previously this season, going hitless with one strikeout. He was 1-for-2 with a single when he came to bat in the fifth with the White Sox behind, 4-2.

"He had talked to Greg [Walker], the batting coach, about hitting Wells' curves," said Ryan McGuire, Iguchi's interpreter. "And all this year he had been fooled by Wells' curves, so he went out trying to hit today, and he's happy it happened."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona had a sort of odd-sounding take on the home run, but his point was obvious.

"To put it as simply as I can, we really weren't hoping for that," Francona said.

"Are we aware he can hit the ball out of the ballpark? Sure -- yeah, I mean, yeah. We weren't really looking for that, but we were aware that this kid can hit the ball out of the ballpark, sure."

Iguchi connected on a 1-1 pitch with two outs after Red Sox second baseman Tony Graffanino had missed what appeared to be an inning-closing double-play grounder from Juan Uribe.

Technically a rookie at 30, Iguchi ranked fifth among American League second basemen in home runs.

"You look at the stats, I think he got 15 home runs," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.

"When he came to the stage, he knows he's got to change the game for us and he did."

Batting second much of this season, Iguchi had a lot of at-bats taken away by bunts and hitting behind the runner, i.e., sacrificing himself for the team. This was not lost on Guillen.

"If you look at my team from a manager's view, one of the biggest reasons we're here is because of Iguchi. He made the plays, hit the home runs. This kid did everything for the team and that's what I keep saying," Guillen said.

This wasn't the mashing the White Sox dealt out in their 14-2 first-game victory. But the five-run fifth, assisted by Graffanino's gut-wrenching error, was even more deadly.

Iguchi could empathize with his fellow second baseman's plight.

"He has had situations which he's erred and [runs] have been gotten by their team because of that, and he understands Graffanino's position and his feelings there," McGuire said.

"But he is happy that [Graffanino's] error gave him a chance to do something and that he was able to make something good out of it."

No one appreciated it more, perhaps, than Buehrle.

"Once I got taken out," he said, "I went over and gave everybody high-fives in the offense and said, 'Thanks.'"

For Iguchi, there was a little hug and a playful pat on the head thrown in. After all, he deserved something extra.

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