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White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen received security Monday with a contract extension. He and a few of his players also received a much-needed parachute.
The bailout came when Timo Perez cracked a two-run opposite-field single with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Sox a baffling 5-4 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before the second sellout crowd of the season at U.S. Cellular Field.
The fans were treated to the return of Frank Thomas after missing nearly 11 months. They also watched Mark Buehrle pitch eight brisk innings of two-run ball.
But they were tortured by minimized scoring opportunities in the second, third and fourth innings that nearly led to the Sox's fourth consecutive loss.
Some of the same fans who cheered Guillen when his extension was announced on the scoreboard were reduced to booing when second baseman Tadahito Iguchi botched a potential game-ending double play that enabled the Angels to take the lead with Sox closer Dustin Hermanson available.
Despite the late-inning heroics that featured Willie Harris' daring steal of second base and Scott Podsednik executing a sacrifice bunt that set up Perez's clutch hit, Guillen barely reached the grass in front of the dugout while his players swarmed Perez on the infield.
"I'm disappointed even though we won," Guillen said after the Sox forged their 14th comeback win while snapping their third three-game losing streak. "Buehrle deserves better, and we beat ourselves in some situations. We have to execute better."
The Sox showed why they are batting only .243 with runners in scoring position and .235 with runners in scoring position with two outs.
In the second, they loaded the bases with no outs but managed only one run on Juan Uribe's sacrifice fly.
They loaded the bases again in the third and nearly came away empty after Paul Konerko hit into a double play. Aaron Rowand salvaged the rally with a two-run double off Jarrod Washburn.
The Sox had runners on first and second in the fourth, but Joe Crede bunted into a double play that could have been a triple play had the Angels recognized sooner that Chris Widger had wandered far off second. But the Angels gained some redemption when four-time Gold Glove center fielder Steve Finley nailed Widger at home for the final out of the inning as Widger tried to score on a Podsednik single.
Guillen stuck with Buehrle to start the ninth because using Hermanson would have allowed the Angels to employ their three left-handed pinch-hitters.
"I was kind of surprised I went out there for the ninth inning," Buehrle said. "I faced these guys nine innings the last game (Tuesday) and eight innings (Monday). Most of these guys have seen me nine or 10 times."
Two singles prompted Guillen to summon left-hander Damaso Marte, who had retired seven of eight Angels last week. But Iguchi's errant toss to second led to Robb Quinlan's game-tying single, a bases-loaded walk to Chone Figgins and some boos.
However, that was forgiven after Harris drew a leadoff walk and stole second, and Crede, after failing to execute another bunt, rallied from an 0-2 count to work reliever Scot Shields for a walk.
Perez, who entered in the seventh after Thomas strained a hip flexor, poked a curve down the left-field line to ignite a festive celebration.
"Timo is the best at hitting the ball over that way," Harris said.