The light bulbs flashed in anticipation of Jim Thome's 500th career home run Friday night, but his White Sox teammates stole the spotlight in a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Thome went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts before an announced crowd of 33,581 at U.S. Cellular Field. But Sox fans weren't let down as Jose Contreras limited the American League West leaders to three runs over 7 1/3 innings for his third consecutive victory.
This was Contreras' longest outing since June 7, when he pitched 7 1/3 innings in a loss against the New York Yankees.
Every Sox starter except A.J. Pierzynski and Thome had at least one hit as the Sox won their second consecutive game to move within a half-game of fourth-place Kansas City.
Thome's pursuit of the 500 mark has been the primary individual attraction, and the fans stood to applaud each time he walked to the plate.
With the Sox holding a three-run lead with nobody on base in the sixth, Thome drew a 3-0 count against reliever Ervin Santana.
That prompted a mix of grumbling and anxiety throughout the stands. Thome hacked at the next pitch, but that prompted a collection of sighs and moans as he popped to second baseman Howie Kendrick in shallow right field.
In the first inning, Thome was called out on strikes by plate umpire Eric Cooper while facing starter and former Cleveland teammate Bartolo Colon to end the inning.
With runners at first and second in the third, first baseman Casey Kotchman made a diving stop to rob Thome of an extra-base hit, and Colon struck him out on a 3-2 pitch to end the fourth.
The Sox wore green caps and uniforms with green trim in observance of their annual Halfway to St. Patrick's Day promotion.
But it was Contreras who saw red early. Second baseman Danny Richar fielded a grounder but waited for Contreras to get to first base. Contreras signaled for Richar to throw the ball but arrived at first after Garret Anderson for a single that preceded Maicer Izturis' RBI base hit that gave the Angles a 1-0 lead in the first.
Contreras was visibly upset after throwing a late-breaking split-finger fastball that Cooper called a ball to Reggie Willits.
Contreras took an extended walk around the mound before two teammates came in to calm him down. Willits concluded the at-bat with a single, but Contreras soon settled down.
Contreras was aided by rookie left fielder Josh Fields, who earned his first outfield assist when he nailed Vladimir Guerrero trying to stretch a single into a double in the third. Fields also made a diving catch to steal a hit from Izturis in the eighth.
Fields helped ignite the Sox's four-run third with a bunt single. Paul Konerko drew a two-out walk to load the bases and set up Jermaine Dye's two-run single that gave the Sox their first lead.
Izturis' throwing error at third on Pierzynski's grounder added another run, and Kotchman skipped a throw past home to enable Dye to score.
One inning earlier, Pierzynski failed to run out a pop fly that Kotchman struggled with before making the catch near the first-base line. Manager Ozzie Guillen said a few words to Pierzynski as he retreated to the dugout.
Third baseman Andy Gonzalez singled in the fourth to snap an 0-for-23 slump. He also snared a liner to rob Jeff Mathis of a hit to start the seventh.
Bobby Jenks pitched the ninth to earn his 38th save.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times