Thome hit a go-ahead RBI single off Francisco Rodriguez to help the Chicago White Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 on Thursday night and salvage a split of the four-game series.
"I was so happy for him, just for the fact that he got that hit," said A.J. Pierzynski, who scored the deciding run. "Everyone's kind of been on him a little bit. And to have him up in that situation and have him get that hit was huge for the team and obviously huge for him. I think that'll get him going."
Pierzynski led off the ninth with his third hit of the game and second double. He tagged up and advanced to third on Carlos Quentin's flyout to the warning track in center and scored when Thome stroked a 1-0 pitch to right field. He was 0-for-13 in the series before getting his third hit in 21 at-bats on the road trip.
The White Sox now go to San Francisco for three games, but Thome will not start any of them because the designated hitter rule is not in effect at NL ballparks. This season has started out miserably for the five-time All-Star, who is batting a measly .204 after entering this season with a career average of .281.
"Everybody was rooting for him big-time," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "That guy is a class act and he shows up every day the same way. One thing about him, he never gives up on himself. He's always trying to give you the best at-bats he can. That big hit was good for the ballclub, but it was the best thing for him. We believe in him."
Octavio Dotel (2-2) pitched 1 1-3 hitless innings for the win and Bobby Jenks got three outs for his eighth save in 10 attempts. Jenks, a former Angels prospect claimed off waivers by Chicago after the 2004 season, has 95 career saves.
"Just about everyone in the organization felt he could have been a terrific starter, but he also had the ability to be a closer or a setup guy because he had a power arm," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Obviously that's gotten him to the big leagues and allowed him to achieve.
"Bobby never really got his feet on the ground when we had him. He had a lot of growing up to do, and he did. When the White Sox got him, they put him in Double-A, where he went to the bullpen and started to figure stuff out. He really fed off of that kind of situation, and he's done well."
Jenks last season became the first pitcher in White Sox history with consecutive 40-save seasons. During one stretch, the two-time All-Star retired 41 consecutive batters to tie Jim Barr's major league record with San Francisco.
"The biggest thing I can attribute my success to is that I became a pitcher, not just a guy who goes out there and tries to throw it by everybody," Jenks said. "After I had the surgery on my elbow, the best idea for me was to eliminate as many innings as possible. And obviously, the best way to do that is by going to the bullpen."
Garland allowed three runs and seven hits over six innings in his first regular-season game against the Sox since getting traded to the Angels in November for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. The right-hander pitched with runners on base in every inning but the sixth, walking four and striking out one.
Garland was an All-Star with Chicago in 2005, when he won a World Series ring and became the first White Sox pitcher in 70 years to win his first eight starts en route to the first of consecutive 18-win seasons.
"He did great for us, and you hate to lose a guy like that. I haven't gotten used to it yet," first baseman Paul Konerko said. "Anytime I've seen him in spring training or saw him on TV, it hasn't looked right. But I know he loves it out here because he's close to home. He's a California guy, so it's a good fit for him. He went to a great team that's been in playoff contention every year."
Javier Vazquez took a 3-2 lead into the seventh before Maicer Izturis hit a two-out infield single and took third on Vladimir Guerrero's double. Matt Thornton relieved Vazquez and got Garret Anderson to hit a grounder to third baseman Joe Crede, whose fielding error allowed the tying run to score.
Casey Kotchman had a chance to give the Angels the lead, but grounded into a force play with the bases loaded after a walk to Torii Hunter.
Vazquez allowed three runs - two earned - and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings with no walks and six strikeouts.
Notes: Pierzynski's next game will be his 1,000th in the majors during the regular season. ... The Angels held a 1970s "Retro Night," complete with psychedelic motif, throwback uniforms and caps from 1971, music from that era - and doctored head shots on the scoreboard of each player in '70s-style hairdos. During that decade, the Halos were 90-79 against the White Sox. Both teams played in the AL West during those years, with the Angels winning a division title in 1979. ... How appropriate that the White Sox were in town for the 1970's nostalgia theme. On July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park, Sox owner Bill Veeck's son Mike allowed a Chicago radio station to hold a "Disco Demolition Night" promotional event between games of a twi-night doubleheader with Detroit. The whole thing backfired, and the resulting chaos from thousands of fans storming the field led to the Sox forfeiting the nightcap to the Tigers.