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Must C Clutch: Phegley walks off in Civil Rights Game

CHICAGO -- The White Sox catcher of the past, A.J. Pierzynski, has been getting loud ovations with pretty much every move made this weekend in his first return to U.S. Cellular Field as part of the Rangers.

But it was Josh Phegley, the White Sox catcher of the present and most likely future, who eventually took down Texas with a walk-off single in a 3-2 victory Saturday night. The contest marked Major League Baseball's seventh Civil Rights Game and completed a weekend of activities and festivities that included a Friday afternoon Roundtable discussion on Baseball and the Civil Rights Movement and the Saturday afternoon Beacon Awards Luncheon.

Phegley, who entered in the eighth after Jeff Keppinger pinch-hit for Tyler Flowers in the seventh, connected on a 97-mph fastball from Tanner Scheppers (5-2), scoring Avisail Garcia, who had singled and moved to third on Dayan Viciedo's two-out single to center. If not for third-base coach Joe McEwing's stop sign, Garcia would have tried to come all the way around on Viciedo's hit.

"I was trying to score that run and they stopped me, but it's OK," Garcia said. "[Phegley] got a big hit right there and we won. He was on the bench and then had to face somebody throwing 99 or 100. It's pretty impressive."

"Scheppers, I've faced him in college. I know he's a hard thrower and I just tried to get my foot down and get the barrel on something," Phegley said. "And I knew a strikeout wouldn't help us there, and if you can just get the bat on the ball and get something through the infield, game over."

This victory stood as the seventh in eight games for the White Sox (53-75) and raised their record to 13-6 over the last 19. It also was a win that might not have been possible for the South Siders to pull off when things were so bad before this recent hot stretch.

Alex Rios came back to haunt his former team with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth off of Hector Santiago, breaking a scoreless tie. With the dominance exhibited by Yu Darvish, it looked as if two runs would be more than enough.

Adam Dunn changed that outlook in the bottom of the frame. He followed Gordon Beckham's single and Alexei Ramirez's long flyout to left with a two-run, opposite-field shot, tying the game and giving Dunn 29 homers for the season. He has 435 for his career, and Dunn's blast marked the fourth first-pitch homer the designated hitter has hit this season.

Darvish finished with a no-decision, pitching out of a first-and-third, nobody-out situation in the seventh, and recording 11 strikeouts over seven innings. It was one pitch that gave the White Sox a chance for their 31st comeback victory.

"Dunn is the only person who could hit a home run off that fastball," Darvish said. "It was not a bad pitch at all. So my hat's off to Dunn."

"He made the mistake to Dunn," said Pierzynski of Darvish. "It wasn't a horrible pitch, but that's kind of where Dunner has been swinging and hitting it well."

Both teams missed prime scoring opportunities, aside from the seventh-inning shutdown by Darvish. The Rangers (75-54) put runners on second and third with one out in the top of the seventh, but reliever Matt Lindstrom induced an Ian Kinsler grounder to Ramirez with the infield in and then retired Adrian Beltre on a fly ball to center.

Paul Konerko's two-out single to left in the third looked as if it would bring home Ramirez from second with the game's first run. But Pierzynski blocked the plate well enough on Craig Gentry's throw home to put the tag on Ramirez.

Despite allowing seven baserunners in the first three innings, Santiago did a good job of matching the Texas ace. He struck out six, walked three and hit three, including Pierzynski in the second, over 6 1/3 innings.

Santiago emerged with an eighth no-decision in 11 starts. Even if he didn't get the individual victory, he was more than satisfied with the team's success.

"We're almost out of it and the numbers in the won-loss column aren't great, but we're playing like we're in contention to make the playoffs," said Santiago, who threw 105 pitches. "It feels like we're battling. We're definitely not giving in and not giving up when we're down and we're battling to keep our team in the game."

That battle allowed the White Sox to beat on Phegley during the postgame celebration following the White Sox eighth game-ending hit this season.

"As soon as you get that hit, you can't feel anything for the next 10 minutes," Phegley said. "So it's great to celebrate with those guys. Hector threw an awesome game. So did Darvish. It was a battle the whole way through. For us to come on top, it was awesome."

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