A 3-foot-tall Foghorn Leghorn doll sat idly in Frank Thomas' locker Thursday morning, wearing a White Sox road jersey.
"Don't ask about the chicken," the Sox slugger said cryptically.
Technically speaking, the cartoon character known as Foghorn Leghorn is a rooster.
"Don't ask about the chicken," Thomas repeated.
A few hours later, the doll was packed away in a black Sox duffel bag, placed on the team charter and ushered off to Oakland after the Sox's 6-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
The Sox won for the 13th time in their last 16 games, beating the Indians for the sixth time in seven games over the last 10 days. Coincidentally, Foghorn Leghorn mysteriously showed up in the Sox clubhouse just as the team began to heat up. Which came first, the "chicken" or the streak?
Don't ask. The first-place Sox were flying west on a high, having dealt Cleveland its ninth loss in 10 games. Royce Clayton's two-run homer and a quality start from Jon Garland ignited the Sox, who enter their toughest stretch with nine straight games against Oakland and Seattle.
"We're doing it with balance," Clayton said. "Up and down the lineup, guys are coming through with big hits, we're getting key double plays and the pitchers are making pitches when they [must] to get out of jams. As long as we continue to do that, we'll be fine.
"We have a tough series ahead in Oakland, with their great pitching, and then Seattle and Oakland coming back to our place. We've had some pretty good tests early this year. So far, so good."
Garland improved to 3-1, yielding three runs on four hits in 52/3 innings before running out of steam. He pitched no-hit ball into the fifth and induced the Indians to ground into four double plays from the second through the sixth.
"If he continues to get double-play balls, he can really be effective," manager Jerry Manuel said. "He can get two quick outs with one pitch."
The Sox's offense has been on fast-forward since the start of the season, but Clayton came into Thursday's game with one hit in 10 at-bats in the series, dropping to .197. But he cranked a two-run shot in the second off Cleveland's Ryan Drese (2-2).
Kenny Lofton's two-out, full-count, three-run, bases-clearing double in the fourth made it 5-0 to put the Sox in charge. Jim Thome's RBI single broke Garland's shutout in the sixth as the right-hander began to lose control. After Matt Lawton's two-run double made it 5-3, Garland was a goner.
But Magglio Ordonez drove in an insurance run in the seventh and relievers Damaso Marte, Bob Howry and Keith Foulke shut out the Indians the rest of the way. After a shaky start, Sox relievers have compiled a 2.38 ERA over the last 19 games, turning an alleged liability into an asset.
The Sox arrived in Cleveland with concerns about the three unproven starters in the rotation, prompting the recall of Jim Parque. But Garland and Dan Wright turned in good efforts, allaying fears for the time being.
"The pitching is definitely growing up fast," Thomas said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times