Mark Buehrle appeared set to enjoy his 150th victory, on the back of a solo homer by Brent Lillibridge, of course. Riding Lillibridge's power to triumph is like riding a unicorn - it doesn't happen often, so enjoy it when you can.
It might not have been the best decision to bring in Thornton. Buehrle had an easy night of work, needing just 99 pitches through eight innings, and the Oakland hitters weren't catching on any better. He held them to just two hits, and one came after Gordon Beckham couldn't wrangle a pop-up down the right field line.
Alas, Guillen chose Thornton, who immediately hung an 0-2 slider to Andy LaRoche. LaRoche sent it to the left-center gap for a double. Coco Crisp followed with a rocket to the right side. It just happened to be aimed right at Paul Konerko, who snagged it for the first out.
Daric Barton hit a high fly to left. Pierre looked increasingly uncomfortable tracking it, drifting with it along the warning track. Sure enough, he was a half-step short. The ball shot off his mitt and rolled away, and pinch-running Cliff Pennington scored from second to tie the game.
The White Sox offense couldn't capitalize on an attempt to win it in regulation, getting runners on second and third with two outs. Tyson Ross threw three good pitches to Brent Morel - an outside corner fastball and two outside-corner sliders. For Morel, who was pulling off the ball all night, that was a recipe for a three-pitch K.
Jesse Crain had an equally nasty slider, but
he Ramon Castro chose to go away from it on a 1-2 pitch to Kurt Suzuki with two outs in the 11th. Suzuki, who had walked off Thornton in 2007 and D.J. Carrasco in 2008, added Crain to his game-winning homer hit list. Crain missed the outspot spot, grooving it instead, and Suzuki didn't miss it. He crushed a liner that just cleared the fence in front of the White Sox bullpen.
That gave Oakland closer Brian Fuentes a save opportunity against the bottom of the order - Castro, Lillibridge, and Pierre. He made easy work of them, getting Pierre to tap out to a soundtrack of boos.
It was a grotesque end to what had been a crisp night of baseball. Buehrle was on his game, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth. He only struck out one, but he had control of both sides of the plate, and good swings were few and far between.
Better yet, the Sox gloves worked over the first eight innings for the few hard-hit balls. Ramirez made a beautiful lunging catch on a rope to his right, and Gordon Beckham snared a smash headed his way. Buehrle made three nice plays himself, including a 1-6-3 double play.
Dallas Braden was equally tough, as his changeup screwed up the timing of the White Sox offense all night long. Lillibridge was the lone exception, as he jumped on a first-pitch fastball and blasted it into the left-center bleachers for the only run the Sox scored. The solo shot was the 10,000th homer in White Sox franchise history.