Jose Valentin dropped his bat and threw his arms in the air.
He knew it.
"I didn't try to mock anybody," Valentin said of the celebration that followed his game-winning home run. "But when you've been swinging the bat like I have, you better enjoy it."
Valentin went more than five weeks without a homer before hitting one Wednesday at Minnesota. Now Valentin is peaking, just like his team.
"Nothing has been easy for us this year," he said after the White Sox blew a late lead Friday before emerging with a 4-3 victory over the Cubs. "But I've seen fire from this team in the last two weeks. I don't know why we wait so long, but it's never too late."
The same applied to Friday's game, which was a snoozer early on.
The Sox were helpless against Matt Clement, who had given up 11 hits to them a week ago.
And the Cubs blew chance after chance to break the game open.
Both Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou left the bases full in the fifth and seventh innings.
Sox starter Dan Wright pitched around Corey Patterson to load the bases in the fifth. Then he got Sosa to whiff on a 2-2 curve.
"He's a great hitter," Wright said. "You obviously have no margin for error."
Wright intentionally walked Patterson in the seventh, giving Sosa another chance for a grand slam. This time, former Cub Tom Gordon struck him out on a 3-2 fastball.
"I don't know if he's trying too hard," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Sosa. "They walk Corey one time unintentionally and one time intentionally. And both times it worked."
Said Sox manager Jerry Manuel: "For the most part when Sammy is right, he's going to bite you."
But Sosa was toothless Friday, at least until the ninth.
With the Sox resting a weary Damaso Marte and reluctant to call on Billy Koch, Gordon was sent back out for a third inning to protect a 3-1 lead that came courtesy of home runs by Frank Thomas and Carlos Lee in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, and Magglio Ordonez's RBI single in the eighth.
Gordon gave up a ground-ball single to leadoff man Tom Goodwin. Mark Grudzielanek reached on a high chopper. Then Gordon walked Alex Gonzalez on four pitches.
With Patterson, Sosa and Alou due up, the beleaguered Koch finally got the call.
He struck out Patterson and gave up a sacrifice fly to Sosa before Alou punched an RBI single through the left side. After all that, the game was tied.
"Billy Koch did a good job of limiting the damage," Manuel said.
So much so that he earned the victory after Valentin's ninth-inning homer. It was the Sox's second walk-off blast of the season following Joe Crede's three-run shot May 25 against Detroit.
Valentin's 430-foot bomb came against Antonio Alfonseca, who hung a 1-1 slider.
"I was looking for a pitch to drive, not to hit out of the park," said Valentin, who was mobbed by his teammates at the plate and saluted by the pro-Sox faction of the sold-out crowd of 45,147.
"We don't get the respect like the North Side gets," Valentin said. "What better time to do it? Show people that there's another team in town."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times