Phillies battle back, sweep White Sox
Rowand's slam against his former team puts game away
PHILADELPHIA -- Though he understands why, Aaron Rowand always said he loathed leaving the White Sox.But he has no problem beating them. The center fielder played a huge role in that Wednesday, as the Phillies corralled an 8-4 win in a series sweep at Citizens Bank Park.
Rowand, who didn't start because of the aftereffects of being hit by two pitches the previous day, drove in the tying run with a ball that rolled 30 feet, then sent a back-breaking grand slam over the left-field wall against his beloved White Sox, the organization that drafted, nurtured and traded him."Put it this way, I don't remember running around the bases," Rowand said during his postgame decompression. "I didn't know it was going to be out. I knew they weren't going to catch it, but I didn't know if it was far enough." It was, capping a five-run frame off reliever Matt Thornton. After falling behind 0-2, Rowand looked for another inside pitch, as had been the White Sox game plan all series. "It was actually off the plate," he said. "I'll take it. I was looking in because they were pounding me in all series. They were taking advantage of my over-aggressiveness because they knew I was geeked up to play them." Rowand likely didn't remember running around the bases because he was too distracted with thoughts of satisfaction, redemption, absolution and all appropriate synonyms. After all, this was the team Rowand won a World Series with in 2005, then was traded from less than a month later. And on Thanksgiving eve, no less. Rowand remembers the emotional phone call he had that night with White Sox general manager Kenny Williams. As a player who understands the business side, Rowand got it. "I told him that I didn't blame him," Rowand said. "He was trying to make the team better, and it's one of those things that happen. I have no animosity against anybody." But? "Hitting it against my former team, that was neat, but it's not payback or anything," Rowand said. "It helped us win a game and sweep the series, and that's good." Manager Charlie Manuel went to Rowand with one out in the sixth, and runners on first and third. Righty Ryan Bukvich was on the mound, and lefty Thornton was warming in the 'pen. Figuring White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen would counter with Thornton if Manuel went with Greg Dobbs, Manuel went to Rowand against the righty.
Rowand nubbed a roller that was gloved by Josh Fields, who threw to first as Jayson Werth streaked home. Werth began the frame by beating out an infield single."It's funny, after not playing at all last year and going through all of that [recovering from left wrist surgery], my speed is one of the things that I lost the most," Werth said. "I still had power and my arm came around pretty quick, but my speed has taken awhile. In the last week or so, I've noticed an extra bounce in my step." Werth's run took Kyle Kendrick, who had made his Major League debut, off the hook with a no-decision. The 22-year-old righty was summoned from Double-A Reading to take injured starter Freddy Garcia's place, and lasted six innings, something Garcia had done in only four of his 11 starts. Pitching in front of about 25 friends and family, Kendrick surrendered a run in each of the first three innings, then tossed three scoreless frames to end his outing. He was helped by his defense, including Werth's diving catch to end the fifth. "I was nervous," Kendrick said. "If I said I wasn't, I'd be lying. When I first got to the warmup and saw all the people and saw all the fans, that was really the moment. But once the game started, I was trying to get outs. Once I got the first one out of the way, I felt all right and did my job." Abraham Nunez gave the Phillies a lead in the sixth with a bloop single to right, scoring Chase Utley, who had doubled. Thornton walked Rod Barajas to load the bases with two outs, and Rowand made him pay with the slam. Jim Thome watched from first base as the Citizens Bank crowd of 42,677 demanded a curtain call from the player he was traded for -- and Rowand obliged. He had to. He was a Phillie now. "It's special because I came up with those guys and know everybody there, but it wasn't about sweet revenge or anything," Rowand said. "It was nice to be a difference maker, in one game at least."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.