CHICAGO -- Jim Thome passed Mickey Mantle at the perfect time.
Thome homered in the 15th inning to move ahead of Mantle on the career list and give the Chicago White Sox a 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Angels that extended their AL Central lead Saturday night.
• The White Sox and Angels' 15-inning game was the longest September/October regular season game ever between two first-place teams.
• Jim Thome's 537th homer was the slugger's 11th career walk-off home run.
• Francisco Rodriguez blew his sixth save of the year, leaving him three shy of tying Bobby Thigpen's record of 57 saves set in 1990.
-- ESPN Research
Thome's 537th home run came off Justin Speier (1-8) and put him in sole possession of 14th place."Those names, they're icon names," Thome said. "It's kind of surreal to be in a group of that many great players. You appreciate it but you have to move on. We're in a pennant race."The White Sox moved 2½ games in front of second-place Minnesota with their third consecutive victory and second in a row over the Angels in this showdown of division leaders.The White Sox have their biggest lead since a three-game cushion on July 26. And they won again without slugger Carlos Quentin, who is scheduled for surgery Monday on his broken right wrist and could miss the rest of the season."The pitching staff on both sides came in and did their jobs," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. "And it ended with a bang with Jim Thome, a guy who has 500-plus home runs. ... If you're going to lose, sometimes you have to lose like that."Angels ace John Lackey failed to protect a 5-2 lead and Francisco Rodriguez blew a 6-5 advantage in the ninth after Brandon Wood homered in the top half against Bobby Jenks.Thome drove an 0-1 pitch well beyond the right-field wall with one out in the 15th for his 30th homer this season. It was his 11th career game-ending homer and the fifth for the White Sox this year -- a dramatic end to a wild game.Ehren Wassermann (1-1) struck out his only batter, Vladimir Guerrero, to earn the win.Speier, pitching in his fourth straight game, came in after Jason Bulger struck out a career-high five in three perfect innings following his call-up from Triple-A earlier in the day.Thome redeemed himself after striking out with two runners on in the 10th. He connected on a fastball and rounded the bases, then retreated toward the left side of the infield to avoid getting mobbed by his teammates."I didn't want to get beat up at home plate too much. I don't think they expected me to backpedal like that," said Thome, who reached the 30-homer mark for the 12th time.Speier dismissed a question about fatigue, saying, "I've thrown four days in a row many a time. I've had success on my fourth day in a row."Chone Figgins hit his first homer in more than a year for the AL West leaders. Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli added back-to-back shots off Gavin Floyd in the sixth, but Lackey let the lead slip away. Paul Konerko hit a solo homer in the bottom half and Nick Swisher tied it at 5 with a two-run drive in the seventh.After Wood put the Angels ahead, Rodriguez blew his sixth save in 60 chances when pinch-hitter DeWayne Wise delivered a sacrifice fly. Rodriguez remained three saves shy of Bobby Thigpen's major league record of 57 set in 1990 for the White Sox.Pinch-runner Jerry Owens was thrown out when he tried to advance to second on Wise's sacrifice fly to right. Orlando Cabrera then flied out, sending the game to extra innings.Chicago had runners on first and third with none out against Scot Shields in the 10th, but a base running blunder by A.J. Pierzynski and a nice catch by Hunter in center preserved the tie.Jenks left after the 10th. Mike MacDougal and Matt Thornton combined for four scoreless innings for Chicago.Lackey and Floyd each lasted seven innings and struck out four while walking two. Lackey allowed nine hits to Floyd's seven, but the White Sox improved to 2-0 in 15-inning games thanks to Thome.More important, they increased their lead in the division."Obviously, it's nice," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It's a little more room to fight with."
The White Sox beat Kansas City 6-4 in 15 innings June 4. ... Chicago RHP Jose Contreras began rehabilitating his surgically repaired left Achilles' tendon on Friday and hopes to return sometime next season. Contreras was expected to miss nine to 12 months after tearing the tendon against Boston on Aug. 9. ... Chicago reliever Scott Linebrink said he felt fine after pitching a scoreless inning Friday. He had been sidelined since July 22 with a sore shoulder. Even so, Guillen wasn't sure when Linebrink might return to his primary setup role. ... Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said Jered Weaver, who skipped his start Friday with a cut on his pitching hand, will start Tuesday against the Yankees.