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The White Sox played and behaved Thursday like well-schooled professionals on the Comerica Park field.
But as soon as they went into their tightly knit clubhouse, they celebrated like rowdy schoolboys.
They punctuated their wildly successful season with a 4-2 victory at Detroit that gave them their first American League Central title since 2000.
There was a collective sigh of relief as All-Star first baseman Paul Konerko leaped to catch Placido Polanco's line drive with the tying run at first base to end the game.
Their subdued on-field celebration was marked by mild hugs near the pitcher's mound, and then they erupted in a clubhouse as champagne corks popped.
Longtime trainer Herm Schneider soaked Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, and Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski, a former Sox administrative assistant, congratulated Sox general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen.
It was a fitting celebration for a retooled team that stunned the baseball world by staying in first place in the division throughout the regular season but nearly squandered the 15-game lead it had on Aug. 1.
The Sox's pitching staff and reinforced defense carried them most of the way, but their approach was ripped when the offense slumped during most of the final two months and their lead dipped from 9½ games to 1½ in a span of 16 days with 10 games left.
But the Sox got the last laugh, and they reminded everyone in a zany celebration.
"If you said before the season that we were going to win the division, you're lying," said Konerko, who supported the clutch pitching of Freddy Garcia with his 40th home run in the sixth inning to give the Sox a 4-0 lead.
"I knew we had pitching. If we got any kind of hitting at any time, we were dangerous. People didn't give our pitching any credit. I knew we had a chance."
But the celebration came so suddenly, especially after it looked as if the Sox would have to win at least one game at Cleveland this weekend until the resurgent Indians lost twice to Tampa Bay entering play Thursday.
"I thought it would come down to the last week," said Konerko, who kept the ball from the last out in his locker. "I didn't think we'd blow a 15-game lead or have Cleveland take it away from us. But I thought this division would come down to the last week. I didn't think it would come down to the last week two months ago."
Nevertheless, the Sox had plenty to treasure and enough to look forward to for the playoffs.
Garcia (14-8) continued his mastery in day games (14-3 in his last 21 day starts) by holding the Tigers to two runs in seven innings. "In Seattle, we'd go to playoffs, but I never had a chance to pitch to clinch," Garcia said. "I got the opportunity, and I did it."
Garcia said he made the best of temperatures that dipped into the 50s.
"I wasn't sweating," Garcia said. "My first pitch was only 84 m.p.h. I'm the kind of pitcher who finds a way to get away with 84, 85 and make a pitch."
The Sox's much-maligned offense also gave Garcia a cushion. Carl Everett continued his resurgence with his second triple in as many days to give the Sox a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
The Sox also reverted to their small-ball tactics to manufacture a run in the second. A.J. Pierzynski, one of Williams' best off-season acquisitions, led off with a double, moved to third on Juan Uribe's sacrifice and scored on Scott Podsednik's sacrifice fly.
It seemed eerie when Guillen, the outspoken voice of the organization, initially walked by the clubhouse celebration and went to his office.
"Those are the guys who should be celebrating, not me," Guillen said as throbbing Latin music bounced off the walls.
But his players later doused him in a fitting tribute to his wacky style that kept the Sox near the front of the baseball world. Thursday, for instance, Guillen started reserve Willie Harris in place of Tadahito Iguchi at second base, and Harris made two exceptional defensive plays to support Garcia.
The Sox also backed up Guillen's crusade for aggressive baserunning with the slow-footed Konerko advancing from first to third twice on Everett singles.
Guillen, who wasn't afraid to change bullpen roles throughout the season, opted for rookie closer Bobby Jenks to finish the eighth and start the ninth.
But the game mirrored the Sox season in that they started strong but had to hold on. Jenks, whom the Angels waived last winter and who never had pitched as a closer until the Sox picked him up last December, ran into trouble in the ninth.
Brandon Inge hit his fourth single of the game and Vance Wilson reached base on an error by third baseman Joe Crede.
But the Sox, an organization filled with players and coaches blessed with second chances, were rewarded handsomely.
Jenks struck out pinch-hitter Dmitri Young on a curveball for the first out. Chicago-area native Curtis Granderson, who beat the Sox with a homer on Monday, couldn't handle two 97-m.p.h. fastballs, then looked at an 85-m.p.h. curve for a called third strike. That left it up to Jenks and Polanco, a .335 hitter, as well as a baffled Konerko.
"I wanted to move over to the left because I didn't want a double to tie the game," Konerko said. "I argued with (coach) Joey Cora, who said to stay where I was.
"It was hit right at me. The last three weeks, the reverse of that was happening."