No DHs allowed, so Frank Thomas had no choice. He dusted off his glove and headed to territory that for the last month has been unfamiliar. He was back at first base.
"The ball jumped off the bat a couple of times over there and I was like, `Whoa,"' Thomas said.
"I went out with the attitude that I can help the team and not hurt it. That's what I wanted to do. Not being in the field for a month is tough."
Thomas didn't hurt the White Sox in the opener of their second interleague series with the crosstown Cubs. Far from it.
First, he hit a go-ahead single in the top of the 12th to start a two-run inning. Then he snared Sammy Sosa's liner in the bottom of the inning and stepped on first to double off Mark Grace as the White Sox beat the Cubs 4-2 Friday.
Once again, they showed why they have the best record in the majors. They've done it with solid pitching, plenty of hitting and, on occasions like Friday, with defense.
"It was three bases easy," Sosa said of his liner. "He was right there. He got me."
Thomas said when he saw the ball leave Sosa's bat, he nearly moved too soon.
"Lucky I didn't jump more off the bat or it would have been a double down the line," Thomas said. "I just held my ground and the ball found me."
Chicago's two baseball teams have been headed in opposite directions all season, but for most of a magnificent 75-degree day at Wrigley Field, it wasn't apparent that thWhite Sox have 55 wins and the Cubs 51 losses.
Before the game, a Cubs fan waved a sign and heckled Thomas with chants of "Big Skirt, Big Skirt," a derisive takeoff on his nickname "The Big Hurt." Thomas looked at the man and casually said: "Check out the scoreboard," a reference to the White Sox's record.
"It was crazy out there," said Thomas, who was 0-for-5 before his RBI hit in the 12th. "The Cubbie fans rode me the whole game. It was a terrible game for me up until the last inning."
In the 12th, Ray Durham led off with a single and was sacrificed to second. Thomas then lined a single in the hole to left field off Todd Van Poppel (2-3) to make it 3-2. After an intentional walk to Magglio Ordonez, Perry hit an RBI double.
With Joe Girardi at third and two outs in the bottom of the 11th, Perry dove to snare Gutierrez's grounder and threw from his knees to first to save the game and retire the side.
"It wasn't hit that hard. He hit it OK but it didn't do anything," Perry said. "I knew I didn't have time to get to my feet. I wasn't going to get up, so I side-armed."
Sean Lowe (3-1), the sixth of seven White Sox pitchers, got the win with 1 2-3 scoreless innings. Grace singled to start the 12th, but when Sosa hit a liner down the first-base line, Thomas snared it and stepped on the bag.
Jesus Pena relieved Lowe and threw a final strike past Brant Brown to end the game and record his first save.
Both teams had earlier chances. Keith Foulke struck out Sosa with a runner at third to end the bottom of the ninth. Two innings earlier, Kerry Wood slipped a third strike past Thomas with the bases loaded to preserve a 2-2 tie.
"The game today has been our M.O. all season. We can't seem to get that one key hit," Cubs manager Don Baylor said.
Carlos Lee led off the fifth with a double, moved to thir on a sacrifice and scored when Durham doubled over Buford's head in center to make it 2-1.
Lee had a one-out single in the seventh for his third of four hits, and after Mark Johnson walked, pinch-hitter Paul Konerko on the bench because there is no DH and Thomas playing first singled to tie the game.
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