Alexei’s grand homer lifts ChiSox, forces tiebreaker game with Twins
Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 3:27 pm
By: By RICK GANO, AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Ozzie Guillen’s advice to Alexei Ramirez with the bases loaded was to relax. Easy for the manager to say. The game was tied 2-2 and the White Sox needed a win to keep their season alive.
Ramirez told Guillen not to worry, that he’d find a way to get the runners home.
And did he ever in Monday’s day-after-the-season makeup game.
The rookie second baseman lined a sixth-inning grand slam on Detroit reliever Gary Glover’s first pitch, sending the White Sox to an 8-2 victory and into a tiebreaker game tonight with the Twins for the AL Central title.
It was Ramirez’s fourth grand slam, a rookie record, and he was like a kid running the bases, clapping his hands and finally jumping into Paul Konerko’s embrace at the plate.
Now the White Sox get to play the team that swept them last week at the Metrodome and knocked them into second place until they pulled even with Monday’s win.
“Every game has been a playoff game for a month so tomorrow is just another one,” said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
“Tomorrow, 162 games mean nothing. It’s only about one game and that’s great,” Guillen said.
John Danks starts for Chicago on three days’ rest against Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn. The division champ begins the playoffs at Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Ramirez is used to playing in big games from his days with the Cuban national team.
“My team in Cuba was always in the playoffs and I played in the Olympics and international games. I’ve been in tougher situations, I feel,” he said through a translator.
Washed out earlier this month, Chicago and Detroit waited through a rain delay of more than three hours before starting. Gavin Floyd (17-8) won on three days’ rest, allowing five hits and one earned run in six innings with eighth strikeouts and 118 pitches.
The loss left the Tigers in last place, capping a season they began with hopes of reaching the World Series.
“It’s been a tough year,” manager Jim Leyland said. “Today pretty much sums up what’s gone on all year, really. It hasn’t been a very good year and it wasn’t a very happy ending.”
Detroit, with nothing really to play for, took a 2-1 lead into the sixth. But former White Sox pitcher Freddy Garcia, who’d allowed only two hits to that point, had to leave with tightness in his right shoulder with a runner on second and no outs.
When Garcia left, things got wild.
Leyland summoned Armando Galarraga (13-7) — the team’s best starter this season — and he threw two wild pitches that allowed the tying run to score. Galarraga also walked one and two more free passes from Bobby Seay — one of them intentional — loaded the bases.
Then Ramirez, nicknamed “The Cuban Missile” delivered.
“He has unbelievable speed in his bat,” Guillen said.
Floyd’s error on Ryan Raburn’s comebacker allowed the Tigers to take a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth.
Chicago scored in the first but had a much bigger inning brewing when the first three batters reached against Garcia. He walked Orlando Cabrera and DeWayne Wise before Dye hit an RBI single, but retired the next three batters.
Detroit tied it in the fifth as Raburn singled, stole second and scored when Brandon Inge doubled to left over the leaping Wise.
After his early struggles, Garcia retired 11 straight at one juncture.
Garcia was 40-21 with Chicago from 2004-06 and won three games in the postseason of 2005, including the clinching Game 4 of the World Series.
Garcia was traded to the Phillies after the 2006 season for Gio Gonzalez and Floyd, and both of the starters wore jersey No. 34 on Monday. Garcia, who had shoulder surgery in August 2007, signed a minor league contract with the Tigers on Aug. 14 of this year and was making his third start for Detroit. Notes: The Twins beat Chicago 10-8 in the season series. The White Sox were 7-2 at home against Twins, but 1-8 at the Metrodome. Chicago won the coin flip earlier to host the game. … Tigers star Gary Sheffield finished the season with 499 homers.