White Sox marvel at Griffey's throw
Outfielder preserves scoreless tie with defensive gem
CHICAGO -- Ken Griffey Jr. certainly wasn't brought to the South Side on July 31 for his defense.
The 38-year-old outfielder was shifted back to center field after he accepted a trade to come to Chicago at the Trade Deadline, and questions about how the move would affect the White Sox defense quickly ensued.
While he's probably not going to be winning any more Gold Gloves, his play in Tuesday's tiebreaker against the Twins was critical to one of the biggest wins of his career.
With the game still scoreless in the top of the fifth, Michael Cuddyer was on third with one out. Brendan Harris sent John Danks' pitch high into shallow center field, and Cuddyer stood ready at third to tag up and break the stalemate.
Griffey waited under the ball, made the catch and put everything he had into his throw. It two-hopped its way to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who held his ground -- and the ball -- despite being railroaded by Cuddyer.
The White Sox won by a score of 1-0, making the bang-bang double play the key to the game. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said as much afterward.
"If Griffey didn't make that play, all you guys would be [criticizing] me right now," he said. "But that was the key. When Griffey made that play and A.J. held onto the ball, I think the fans got involved."
"Coming down to it, that play, all I had to do was make a good throw," Griffey added. "The credit is all A.J. I put a two-hopper in there and he was able to get it and block the plate. That's the key there. He put his body on the line for us."
Pierzynski was still in shock after the game.
"I still don't know how I caught the ball," he said. "I have no idea. I really have no idea. I really didn't think I did. I couldn't feel it in my glove, so when I turned I thought it went flying.
"It took a perfect throw and a perfect play. Cuddyer can run. I give him credit. He hit me good."
It was the play that single-handedly gave Griffey another crack at the postseason, which was the reason he accepted the trade to come to Chicago in the first place.
Griffey hasn't played in a playoff game since 1997, when his Mariners lost to the Orioles in the American League Division Series.
Celebrating on the field in front of 40,354 black-clad fans was a dream come true for the future Hall of Famer.
"[General manager] Kenny Williams and Ozzie and [White Sox chairman Jerry] Reinsdorf have given me a chance. I can't thank them enough," Griffey said. "The hardest part was getting there. Now it's just a matter of us going out there and doing what we've been doing."
Griffey surpassed the 600-homer milestone earlier this season, and passed Sammy Sosa for fifth place on the all-time list a week ago.
Statistically speaking, Griffey's numbers since joining the Sox have been subpar, but his presence in the clubhouse has invigorated his teammates.
Fellow veteran Jim Thome has struck a particularly strong bond with "The Kid," and the two often trade advice.
"I do more of the asking," Thome said. "We kind of work together in that regard. We all do. But yes, we're both left-handed hitters, and you know what? Junior, since he got here, has been a great leader. He's helped our young guys and older guys, as well. The day he walked in that clubhouse in Kansas City, you could see the intensity rise. I'm so happy for him that he has an opportunity to go back [to the playoffs], too."
"These guys have worked their butt off for this," Griffey added. "They've been doing it all year. I can't say enough for the guys in that locker room."
David Just is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.