The White Sox were just warming up when they rallied against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of his final appearance at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday night.
Not only did the South Siders tie the game against baseball’s all-time saves leader, they also came back again for an improbable 6-5 victory in 12 innings over the New York Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field.
Three innings after Adam Dunn’s two-out, pinch-hit RBI single tied the game against Rivera, Alejandro De Aza upped the ante with a two-run triple with two outs off Adam Warren (1-2) to lift the White Sox to a series sweep of the Yankees.
De Aza’s game-winner wiped out a 12th-inning solo home run by New York’s Robinson Cano and made a victor of reliever Dylan Axelrod (4-8).
“Just a great win,” second baseman Gordon Beckham said. “It was fun. I think everybody right there before the hit was thinking ‘Here we go again.’ We claw our way back into a game just to lose it in the 12th and then De Aza came up big. We’re all happy right now.”
The announced crowd of 25,707 was ecstatic when Rivera trotted in from the bullpen in the ninth with a 4-3 lead.
Much has been made of Rivera’s farewell tour this season as he has gone from city to city receiving the adoration of fans across the country and gift from teams.
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A day after they gave him two framed items and made a $4,200 donation to the Jackie Robinson Foundation in Rivera’s name, the White Sox threw in one more present.
First fans saluted him with a standing ovation as he exited the bullpen. They offered another ovation when he was announced.
“There are a lot of Yankee fans out there,” said first baseman Paul Konerko, who doubled in a run. “But when he came in it was everybody. Classy move by our fans. … Definitely he deserves that after his career and what he’s done. That doesn’t mean once the ball is in play that you don’t try to beat him, which we obviously did. But it was cool.”
Dunn was the cooler.
With two outs and Beckham -- who went 2-for-4 with a walk two RBIs -- on second after a double to right-center, fans roared again and rose to their feet after Rivera got two called strikes against Dunn.
But Dunn, who had struck out in his previous four at-bats against Rivera, went the opposite way to single in Beckham and tie it a 4.
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“Everybody is aware of who (Rivera) is and what he means and you realize you’re not in a very good spot at that point,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “But for them to go up there and have tough at-bats, Dunner coming off the bench and getting one to left to tie it up, it’s a big boost for us.”
The White Sox didn’t have to be told how rare the moment was.
Rivera has only blown 77 of the 720 saves he has attempted to convert in his 19-year career. He had closed out 35 of 37 saves this season and only blew his third chance in 24 tries at U.S. Cellular Field.
“You probably don’t want to draw it up like that too many times, but we were able to do it,” Beckham said. “We were fortunate.”
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The White Sox were fortunate again in the 12th as Tyler Flowers’ chopper with two outs skipped off Warren’s glove. Alexei Ramirez, who finished 3-for-6, then singled to left-center as Flowers raced to third.
De Aza then ripped a 1-0 fastball from Warren deep to right-center and Ramirez easily scored from first as the White Sox raced in from the dugout.
“I was trying to hit the ball hard,” De Aza said. “Anywhere hit the ball hard. If I hit it something will happen. Anything can happen there. … It’s a much better feeling because it’s no fun losing.”