Crede's walk-off lifts White Sox

Crede's walk-off lifts White Sox

CHICAGO -- If the White Sox are a tight team, gasping for air as the Cleveland Indians move a little closer each day in the AL Central rearview mirror, it certainly didn't show Tuesday night following their thrilling 7-6, 10-inning victory over the Indians before 26,147 at U.S. Cellular Field.

It was a game that almost got away from the White Sox (91-59), who rallied from deficits of 2-0, 3-2 and 5-3, only to have newly anointed closer Bobby Jenks unable to convert his second save attempt in as many nights in the bottom of the ninth. The contest had all the markings of one of those losses the White Sox would look back on with frustration in October, saying "This is the one that ultimately cost us the postseason."

But Joe Crede took care of any such worries with one swing of the bat. Actually, two swings of the bat.

Crede homered in the second inning off of Jake Westbrook to tie the game at 2, but that was a mere warmup act for his 10th-inning heroics. Crede launched a fastball from David Riske (3-4) for home run No. 19, setting off fireworks with the fifth walk-off shot of his career.

A throng of ecstatic teammates greeted Crede at home plate, with Crede joking after the game that he took the most pounding from A.J. Pierzynski. The White Sox catcher kept the comical verbal abuse going postgame, this time directed at Aaron Rowand.

The Gold Glove caliber center fielder had misplayed Victor Martinez's ninth-inning fly ball into a double, setting up Ron Belliard's game-tying groundout. Nobody was happier than Rowand with his good friend's deciding drive to left, and Pierzynski shared that particular thought with anyone who would listen.

"He came up to me and said, 'You don't know how much I love Joe right now,'" screamed Pierzynski, as Rowand was talking to six or seven media members.

"Pipe down over there," answered Rowand back with a smile. "Like I said, 'Thanks, Joe.' Probably nobody loves him more than I do right now."

With the White Sox nursing a 6-5 lead in the ninth, thanks to a Rowand sacrifice fly and an ensuing throwing error from first baseman Jose Hernandez in the seventh, Jenks was summoned for the fourth time in five days. He promptly walked Jhonny Peralta on four pitches, and Peralta moved to third on Rowand's miscue on the drive by Martinez.

Manager Ozzie Guillen elected to give his team a viable chance to win and play for the tie, keeping the infield back when Belliard came to the plate.

"The reason is that [if Belliard] get a base hit, I lose the game," Guillen said. "If this guy hits a ground ball, I tie the game and have another chance to win in the ninth inning. I would rather be tied in the ninth than down by one."

Guillen also chose not to walk the bases loaded because he didn't want to put a temporarily wild Jenks into a situation where he was forced to throw strikes.

Rowand appeared to have a chance for redemption in the bottom of the ninth, facing Riske with runners on second and third and two outs. Paul Konerko started the rally with a single to left, and was immediately replaced by pinch-runner Willie Harris.

The fleet-footed Harris stayed put at first with Pierzynski up, as Guillen said he wanted to keep the hole open between first and second for his catcher. Pierzynski followed with a single, and Riske hit Rowand on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases. But Juan Uribe, who saved the game with a defensive gem against Coco Crisp with runners on first and third and two outs in the eighth, flew out to right to end the threat.

"I was hoping to get a chance to redeem myself, but Joe came through for us big," Rowand said.

"These teams are pretty evenly matched, and it comes down to the smallest things," added Konerko, who was one of four White Sox starters with two hits. "I just think we showed a lot of character."

Crede's "character" has been shining through over the last 10 games, as he has hit .419 with three home runs and eight RBIs during that stretch. He hit a fastball on the inner half for the game-winner, calling it the biggest hit of his career and the loudest he has ever heard U.S. Cellular.

"It's something where your concentration level gets that much higher and you come into the zone," said Crede of his knack for walk-off blasts. "You have a mindset where you know you have to capitalize on a mistake."

"He's done a good job since coming off the disabled list," added Mark Buehrle, who allowed four runs on seven hits over six-plus innings Tuesday in a no-decision. "Our guys come up with big hits when we need them."

Dustin Hermanson improved to 2-4 with one gritty inning of relief, battling through persistent back tightness during the four batters he faced. The White Sox returned their lead in the American League Central to 3 1/2 games, while reducing their magic number to nine over the Indians, Yankees and Red Sox to simply clinch a playoff spot.

There remain plenty of issues to be tackled over these closing 12 games. The starting pitching, aside from Jose Contreras, continues to struggle, and the White Sox left 11 men on base.

Neither problem truly concerned the South Siders on this night. Their postgame demeanor seemed as loose as it was when the postseason was all but a foregone conclusion.

"We needed that one," Guillen said. "I said that if we played the way we did [Monday, in a 7-5 loss], we will win some games. Hopefully, we can play even better tomorrow."

"It was about as big of a win as we've had all year," Pierzynski said. "It was just a total team effort tonight."

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