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Feeling "chills, lots of chills" from a wildly cheering, joyous crowd, left-hander Mark Buehrle propelled the White Sox into first place Friday night.
Buehrle beat Chicagoland native Mark Mulder, another of baseball's best left-handers, in a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. The Sox moved ahead of Kansas City, a 4-0 loser to Tampa Bay, to take sole possession of first place in the American League Central for the first time since May 25 of last season.
"I got the chills in the ninth inning," said Buehrle, who went the distance, allowing five hits. "I had to concentrate hard not to overthrow."
The crowd of 24,118 gave center fielder Carl Everett a standing ovation when he robbed Ramon Hernandez of a game-tying, seventh-inning homer. The crowd cheered Buehrle louder and louder through the final three innings.
"Mulder beat me twice before, so maybe the third time is the charm," Buehrle said. "He's one of the best pitchers in the game. We knew we wouldn't get more than two or three runs, so when they got ahead 2-0, we knew we couldn't give them any more."
Mulder (15-8) yielded 10 hits and struck out two. Buehrle fanned six, five on called strikes. Neither lefty walked a man in a game that was played in a snappy 1 hour 53 minutes.
"My four-seam fastball was my best pitch," Buehrle said. "It starts out away from right-handed hitters and breaks back over the plate."
Magglio Ordonez was the Sox's hitting star, collecting three hits including his 22nd home run as the Sox extended their team record to 19 straight games in which they have homered at least once.
"It took us a long time to get to first place," Ordonez said. "Now, we have to stay there."
Everett saved the victory when he leaped, extended his glove over the center-field fence and took a home run away from Hernandez to end the seventh inning.
"At first, I thought that ball was out and a couple of rows into the stands," Buehrle said. "I didn't believe Carl had it until he pulled it out of his glove."
Neither team committed an error. Buehrle threw 79 strikes among his 115 pitches. Mulder had 93 pitches, 65 of them strikes.
In two previous games against the White Sox this season, former Thornwood High School star Mulder had a 2-0 record and a 0.50 ERA, yielding just one earned run in 18 innings.
With those numbers going for him, Mulder's chances looked pretty good in the top half of the second inning when Erubiel Durazo cracked an 0-1 pitch from Buehrle over the right-field fence for a 1-0 lead.
Ordonez singled and Everett doubled for the Sox in the second, but they failed to score after Adam Piatt doubled up Ordonez, who had tagged up and tried to advance to second on Carlos Lee's flyout to left.
Oakland made it 2-0 in the third when Jose Guillen doubled home Mark Ellis, who had singled.
Joe Crede doubled to lead off the third. He took third on Sandy Alomar's sacrifice bunt and scored on Tony Graffanino's sacrifice fly to center to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Sox treated Mulder like a mere mortal in the home half of the fourth, collecting four hits, scoring twice and talking a 3-2 lead. Ordonez led off with a home run that bounced off the glove of leaping Eric Byrnes in center. Singles by Lee, Everett and Paul Konerko loaded the bases with nobody out. Lee scored as Crede grounded into a double play.
Roberto Alomar tripled with one out in the Sox fifth, but Mulder toughened and fanned both Frank Thomas and Ordonez to retire the side.