In June 1997, Bud Selig began to eradicate the distinctions between the American League and the National League with the introduction of interleague play. Regular season meetings between the two leagues began on June 12 with a game between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers, as well as three other games. For most of the rest of the major leagues, including the White Sox, June 13 was their first interleague game.
The White Sox traveled to Cincinnati to face the Reds in a Friday night game at Cinergy Field (née Riverfront Stadium). They came in at 28-34 and trailing the idle Indians by 5 games. The Reds had a worse record at 26-37 but similarly trailed their division leader, the Astros, by 5 games.
Manager Terry Bevington sent to the mound his staff ace, left-hander Wilson Alvarez, to face journeyman left-hander Pete Schourek.
Leadoff man Ray Durham welcomed Schourek to interleague play, and set the tone for the White Sox in interleague games, with a home run to left field on the second pitch of the ballgame. The score would remain 1-0 until the sixth inning.In the top of the sixth, Schourek struck out Durham. He then gave up a single to Ozzie Guillen. Schourek induced a groundball from Mike Cameron but the Reds could not turn the double play on the speedy centerfielder.
So with two outs, the main offensive threat of the White Sox (with Frank Thomas on the disabled list) came to the plate. Albert Belle started the 1997 season slowly after signing his "five year", $55 million contract but had begun to heat up in May. He capped that hot streak with a two-run home run to right field off of Schourek. The .291/.356/.542 line he left the game with would be the zenith of what was ultimately a disappointing offensive season for Belle.
Three runs would be enough for Alvarez. He blanked the Reds until two outs in the bottom of the 8th, when future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin hit a ground rule double that scored Deion Sanders. Bevington pulled Alvarez, who was at 122 pitches, and elected to bring in his closer right-hander Roberto Hernandez for the four out save.
Hernandez had established himself as a dependable closer and the White Sox rode him hard, as he led the league in games finished in each of 1994, 1995 and 1996.
Hernandez would have no problem closing this game out, retiring all four batters he faced to record his 13th save and the White Sox' first interleague win.
Interleague play has been good to the White Sox. After last night's win against the Cardinals, they bettered their second best all-time record to 159-113; only the Yankees have a better record in interleague games. So far this season they are 5-2. With the Indians nipping at their heels, it would be nice to keep the long tradition of excellent interleague play going.