Sanchez's walk-off HR ends Pirates' losing streak

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- No team named the Pittsburgh Pirates had lost
this many games in a row. Nobody wearing a Pirates uniform wants to
be part of the next one that does.

Freddy Sanchez led off the ninth inning with a home run, his
fourth hit of the game, and the Pirates rallied to end a
club-record 13-game losing streak by beating the Chicago White Sox
7-6 Thursday.

"You hope you never see anything like that happen to us
again," said Sanchez, who raised his NL-leading batting average to
.363. "Now we're looking forward to starting to win some games.
Let's do something and turn it around and hope it's over."

The Pirates stopped their longest skid in the modern era of
baseball that began in 1900, and the second-longest in franchise
history to a 23-game slide in 1890 -- when the city's NL team was
known as the Pittsburg Alleghenies.

But they barely came out on top.

They led 6-4, only to see Jim Thome tie it with his 25th homer
in his only at-bat of the game, a pinch-hit, two-run drive off
Roberto Hernandez that bounced into the Allegheny River in the
eighth. The night before, the White Sox rallied from a three-run
deficit to win 4-3, the World Series champions' 11th win in 12

"Pinch-hitting, it's a different role for sure. You've got to
be aggressive and try to get a pitch to hit, that's it," Thome

It's the kind of game the White Sox have won and the Pirates
have lost so many times this season. Only this day was different.

Mike Gonzalez (2-3) pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam in the
top of the ninth by striking out former teammate Rob Mackowiak.
Sanchez then hit an 0-1 pitch from Cliff Politte (1-2) into the
first row of the left-field seats for his fifth homer, giving the
Pirates their first victory in 15 days.

"I knew it felt good, but I couldn't assume anything," Sanchez
said. "I think it's the first time since junior college I hit a
walk-off homer."

Politte hadn't pitched since June 4 because of right shoulder
inflammation and was activated from the disabled list earlier in
the day.

"It was a fastball down and in and he hit it out," Politte
said, letting out a long and audible sigh. "It's over. It's not
the way you want to come back, have that kind of stuff happen to
you, but it's part of the game and you've got to move on."

Like the Pirates say they have to do.

"I didn't look at it as a 13-game losing streak -- I looked at
it as 13 games we wanted to win and we weren't winning, and we
needed to find a way to win," Sanchez said. "It felt good."

The Pirates, winning only their second in 16 games, stopped one
streak but couldn't halt Jose Contreras' White Sox-record 16-game
winning streak despite getting six runs and 12 hits off him in 5
1-3 innings. Not that they really cared.

Sanchez and Jason Bay, about the only Pirates who have done much
in an already lost season, contributed most of the offense as they
ended a losing streak that matched the longest in the majors this
season. The Royals also lost 13 in a row, a year after losing 19

"It will be very difficult to completely erase it," manager
Jim Tracy said. "But there's no question we're capable of
competing against the best teams in the American league and the
National League, because we've proved it the last three days."

The Pirates must have let out a "Here we go again" after the
first four White Sox batters singled in the first, with those by
Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye driving in runs. It was a customary
start by Pirates left-hander Zach Duke, who has allowed 12 runs in
the first inning in his last nine starts and 18 in the first this

But the Pirates, winless since beating the Cardinals 9-7 on June
14, came back with two in their half on Bay's RBI double and Jeromy
Burnitz's sacrifice fly.

Bay struck out and stranded two runners to end Wednesday night's
game, then urged management to make changes with a team he said
isn't yet ready to win regularly.

Bay, his average down nearly 20 points since the Pirates
launched an aggressive, get-out-the-vote campaign to make him an
All-Star game starter July 11 in Pittsburgh, also singled. It was
only his second two-hit game in his last 10.

The White Sox, already assured of winning an eighth consecutive
series, came back with Alex Cintron's two-run double in the second
to make it 4-2. But the Pirates tied it again by scoring in the
second on Jose Bautista's sacrifice fly and Jose Hernandez's RBI

Sanchez and Bay singled again to start the fifth, and Jose
Castillo's two-out RBI single made it 5-4. Sanchez, running his
hitting streak to 13 games (28-of-64), added an RBI double against
reliever David Riske following a 25-minute rain delay in the

Game notes
Thome had been 5-for-18 with no homers and seven strikeouts
against Hernandez. ... Duke allowed at least three runs for the
11th consecutive start. ... Bay, who homered in six consecutive
games earlier this season, has one homer in 18 games. ... The
Pirates avoided falling 28 games below .500, or where they finished
last year (67-95). ... The White Sox lost for only the third time
in 15 games. ... Pittsburgh is 2-10 against the AL.