White Sox beat Twins, head to playoffs

CHICAGO The Chicago White Sox are the American League Central champs for the first time in three years after winning a one-game playoff against the visiting Twins.

John Danks worked eight sensational innings and Jim Thome homered in the seventh as the White Sox stifled the Twins 1-0.

Danks limited the Twins to just two hits before Bobby Jenks worked a perfect ninth to close out the victory. Danks had a no-hitter until Michael Cuddyer doubled leading off the fifth inning.

Losing pitcher Nick Blackburn was working on a two-hit shutout until Thome led off the bottom of the seventh with his 34th home run of the year.

Jermaine Dye had two of the White Sox's five hits.

Danks finishes the regular season 12-9 while Blackburn ends up 11-11.

The White Sox will travel to Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, which begins Thursday.

It was a classic baseball game complete with a diving catch at the end.

It is the first time in 100 years that both the Sox and the Cubs made it to postseason play in the same season.

"Probably my best baseball moment of my life. This is awesome," said Danks. "We needed the win. It was win or go home. This is awesome."

Danks pitched on only three days' rest.

"All of us feel like we can pitch a big game when we need to," Danks said

"The hardest part was getting here. Now it is just a matter of going out there and doing what we need to do. We wanted more. That's what made the last couple of years tough," said catcher A.J. Pierszynski. "We were not predicted to be here. Neither was Minnesota.

After holding their breath for the past few weeks and suffering through the Sox being swept in Minnesota last week, Sox fans could let loose Tuesday night.

The lucky ones were able to buy American League Central Division Championship shirts immediately after the final out. They sold out at U.S. Cellular in about 15 minutes.

"I thought it was fantastic. I think the tenacity of the team, I think they have done enough and demonstrated enough that we're going to go all the way," said Sox fan Melvin Caldwell.

"We have to maintain our credibility as Sox fans because if we were going to blow it, then shame on us. And that was great testimonial to the Sox organization," said Skip Saviano.

The White Sox stayed alive by downing the Detroit Tigers 8-2 Monday. Alexei Ramirez snapped a 2-2 tie with a grand slam in the sixth inning, helping Gavin Floyd pick up his 17th win.

The big blast by Ramirez Monday set up Tuesday night's one game showdown with the Twins.

It has been a wild week for the Sox and their fans.

The team has battled back from the brink of elevation. And it all came down to one game.

Thousands of fans headed into the ballpark energized by Monday's big win and expecting another big one.

"I went to the virtual waiting room and got virtually nothing," said one fan looking for tickets.

One more win put the Sox in the playoffs. One ticket, however, was tougher to get. Within an hour of Monday night's dramatic win, highlighted by the Ramirez grand slam, Tuesday night's game was sold out. And many of those lucky enough to get tickets came early to soak up the atmosphere and reminisce about the 2005 championship.

"We're going to win, no doubt. Home, Minnesota is only beaten us twice this year at home. So I feel real good about the chances," said Roberto Rivera, Sox fan.

Diane Episcopo said she was hoping her lucky Sox jeans would guarantee a victory.

"I wore these for the playoffs in 2005 and wore them throughout the playoffs and Game One of the World Series. And then I took them to Houston for Game Four," she said.

Game 163 of the season was a bonanza for souvenir sales. The Sox encouraged fans to wear black to the game.

Most were confident it would not be their last opportunity of the season to make that fashion statement.

"We've been waiting for this. We knew they could do it," said one fan.

"One more, we got it. Tonight we got it for sure. It's all ours," said another fan.

"The baseball gods smiled on us in 2005 and hopefully they're smiling on us again today," said Episcopo.

The first home playoff game will be Sunday night. Most of the fans ABC7 talked to even before the game said they'd already cleared the calendar Sunday. They're planning on being right back there for playoff baseball.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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