CHICAGO — It was arguably the symbolic and strategic moment of the game for the White Sox, and manager Ozzie Guillen wasn't sure it was legal. But he'll take it, because he and his team know that a brilliant afternoon on the basepaths — including one cunning move from veteran Ken Griffey — didn't change their DNA. It did, however, briefly change their lot in the American League Division Series against the Rays.
Griffey went to second base on a fourth-inning flyout — against centerfielder B.J. Upton, second-best in the AL with 16 outfield assists — to help fuel a three-run inning and the fourth run of the game in a 5-3 win Sunday.
"To be honest, I thought Griffey cheated," Guillen quipped. "I never thought he went back to the bag (to tag). That's good, smart baserunning. I think that was a big, big play for us in the inning."
Brian Anderson replaced Griffey in the sixth as a pinch-runner, stole second and, after superlative defensive plays by third baseman Evan Longoria and first baseman Carlos Pena, scored on a two-out single by Juan Uribe. Uribe's steal later in the game made the Sox 3-for-3 against Dioner Navarro, who allowed the fewest swipes in the majors (45) among catchers with 100 starts.
Griffey, 38, said he was just trying to "go down swinging" in an elimination game, but his hustle was inspirational to a team in need of a spark. Ultimately the Sox mimicked the Rays to beat them.
"I think people underestimate Griff's speed," Anderson said. "He's probably not the 19-year-old kid everyone is looking at, but he's not slow."
Before this game, White Sox were 9-31 in games in which they did not hit a home run.
So Anderson said the Sox will need power-hitting, not slick baserunning from Griffey, Jim Thome and Paul Konerko, to continue in the playoffs.
"I think we have to stick to what we do best, which is drive the ball," he said.
Dewayne Wise, who drove in Griffey in the fourth with a double, said the White Sox — who led the majors with 235 regular-season homers but have two in three ALDS games — had not grown dependent on power.
"Just because we're a team that leads the league in home runs, I don't think everybody is sitting around waiting on the home run," he said. "Sometimes it just happens that way."
But it felt different to Navarro.
"They knew they had to do something today," he said. "I think they did play a little bit different. We're going to be ready for them (today)."
If so, it's back to Plan A.