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First came the Ivy Game. Then the Rain Game. Friday night was the Shoelace Game.
Given all the drama this season, it's hard to imagine that some people want to see fewer of these civil wars between the Cubs and White Sox.
With Friday's game tied 2-2 in the ninth inning and runners at first and second with one out, Magglio Ordonez hit a soft bouncer up the middle. Shortstop Manny Alexander made the grab and tried to step on second to retire Frank Thomas before firing to first.
Alexander's throw to first was late, but what really irked the Cubs was second-base umpire Gary Cedarstrom's ruling that Alexander's right foot did not touch the second-base bag. Thomas was safe as well, meaning the bases were loaded with one out.
Replays showed that Alexander missed by the width of his shoelace. "It's one of those (an infielder) can usually get away with," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said. "But when you look at it real close (on replay), he missed it by a little bit."
With the bases loaded, Carlos Lee lined Terry Adams' 0-2 pitch to center field. Curtis Goodwin caught it and fired a strike to the plate, but it didn't come quickly enough to nip a sliding Ray Durham.
That's how the game ended, with the Sox and their fans celebrating a 3-2 win. Almost all of the crowd of 44,153--the third-largest in the nine-year history of the new Comiskey Park--was around to witness the conclusion. It was the second straight game in which the Sox won on their final at-bat, and it marked another loss for the slumping Cubs, who haven't won two in a row since June 7-8 at Arizona.
The Sox improved to 4-0 against the Cubs this season with two games left. "We're not trying to get anybody's number," Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. "We're just trying to play good baseball. We did that tonight."
Before the game, all parties did their best to downplay the significance of the series.
"I'm not looking at it like I did the last (series)," Manuel said. "I'm more concerned with preparing my team for the second half of the season."
Said Thomas: "To be honest, it's just another three-game set."
Not even Riggleman took the bait, insisting his team's midseason collapse was not a result of getting swept last month at Wrigley Field.
"It's a convenient argument," Riggleman said. "But our struggles this year, I don't think, are because we got swept by them."
Riggleman was pleased with the effort of his pitchers, who had compiled an 8.23 ERA in the 23 games since the Sox sweep. They limited the Sox to three runs.
And they did it in odd fashion. Starter Kevin Tapani had to leave the game after two innings because of a bruised right thumb he suffered while fielding Mark Johnson's ground ball. Former Sox reliever Matt Karchner also had to be removed prematurely after straining his right groin.
Sox pitchers held the Cubs down in more conventional fashion--with a terrific outing by starter Mike Sirotka, who allowed just two baserunners over the first five innings. "He set the tone for the whole night by going after them and not giving them much to hit," Manuel said.
The Sox jumped ahead on Paul Konerko's RBI double in the second and scored again when Thomas chugged home from first on a two-out double by Magglio Ordonez.
After cruising through five innings, Sirotka ran into trouble in the sixth. Jeff Blauser doubled and Mark Grace lined an 0-2 pitch to left for a single. Lee came up firing, but catcher Johnson could not hang on to his one-hop throw.
Goodwin singled home the tying run in the seventh, but Bill Simas struck out Blauser with two on. Closer Bob Howry worked a scoreless ninth for the win.