White Sox clinch first AL Central title since 2000

DETROIT (AP) -- The Chicago White Sox hooted, hollered and
screamed like kids as they ran down a skinny hallway toward their
plastic-lined clubhouse.

After flirting with one of the worst collapses in baseball
history, the White Sox earned the right to douse each other with

Chicago got a clinch, not a collapse.

Paul Konerko homered to back Freddy Garcia and the White Sox
held off Detroit for a 4-2 victory Thursday for their first AL
Central title since 2000.

"That team worked so hard all year long, they deserve to do
what they're doing now," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said with
champagne-slicked hair. "Finally, they can say, 'We did it!' A lot
of teams made it tough on us. It wasn't easy."

Chicago had a 15-game lead in the division on Aug. 1, then saw
it dwindle to 1 games last weekend as Cleveland closed. The White
Sox survived a shaky ninth inning against Detroit to win their
AL-best 96th game and will start the playoffs at home next week.

"It was a little tight at the end, but we pulled it out,"
Konerko said.

Chicago clinched because Cleveland can at best tie the White
Sox, and no team can finish second in another division with 96 wins
or more. If the AL Central is decided by a tiebreaker, it would go
to the White Sox, who have an 11-5 lead over the Indians in the
season series, and Cleveland would be the wild card.

"It's a great feeling," Guillen said. "This first step is a
big step because a lot of people don't realize how hard it is to
just get to the playoffs."

The White Sox close the regular season with three games at

What does the series mean?

"Nothing," said Mark Buehrle, Friday's scheduled starter.

Carl Everett's two-run triple in the first helped the White Sox
win their second straight and fifth in seven games.

Garcia (14-8) allowed two runs and eight hits in seven-plus

"It was a big game for him," Guillen said.

After Placido Polanco's leadoff single in the eighth, Garcia was
replaced by Cliff Politte, who gave up an RBI double to Magglio
Ordonez that made it 4-2. Neal Cotts then struck out Carlos Pena
and Bobby Jenks got Craig Monroe to ground out, ending the inning.

The White Sox had a chance to add to their lead in the ninth,
but Monroe threw out A.J. Pierzynski at the plate and Pablo Ozuna
hit an inning-ending groundout.

Fittingly, the White Sox continued to make it tough on
themselves in the bottom of the ninth.

Brandon Inge hit a leadoff single and third baseman Joe Crede
bobbled Vance Wilson's grounder before Jenks got the next three

"One of the reasons we picked each guy on this team is we
wanted a bunch of fighters, guys that could be resilient," general
manager Kenny Williams said.

Detroit stranded two runners in the second and third innings,
then didn't have more than one baserunner against Garcia until the
seventh, when his wild pitch made it 4-1.

In the third and seventh, second baseman Willie Harris made two
fantastic plays -- up the middle and in the hole. He also hit a
sacrifice fly in the second.

It was the home finale for Detroit, where Alan Trammell might
have managed the Tigers for the last time. A victory away from
matching last season's total of 72, the Tigers have failed to meet
modest projections and many expect that to cost Detroit's former
star shortstop to lose his job as soon as Monday.

"I hope I get to continue with this because there is some
unfinished business," said Trammell, who has one year left on his
contract. "I'm going to be in baseball for many more years,
whether it is here or not. I'm not done. I'm confident that I can
do this."

Jason Grilli (1-1) gave up four runs and eight hits in
seven-plus innings.

Trammell said the White Sox deserved to celebrate after winning
the last two games of the four-game series.

"You would like to hold them off as long as possible and to be
honest, we did that," Trammell said. "Congratulations to the
White Sox. They've had a heck of a year."
^Notes:@ Detroit C Ivan Rodriguez has not played since straining his
calf Monday. ... Crede rejoined the team about 90 minutes before
the game after going to Missouri, where his wife gave birth
Tuesday. ... Konerko joined Frank Thomas (1995-96) as the only
White Sox to hit 40 homers in back-to-back seasons and Konerko is
one short of his career high. ... Inge matched a career high with
four hits, his third four-hit game and first since Aug. 13, 2004.