Pardon the expression, but White Sox manager Jerry Manuel figured he had all the pieces in place.

It was the top of the ninth inning and the tying run was standing on first base in the form of speedy pinch-runner Mike Cameron.

With one out, Albert Belle dug into the batter's box, oblivious to the boos, taunts and cheers from a rabid Wrigley Field crowd of 38,232.

"We had the people we felt were necessary to get the job done," Manuel said. "But it just didn't happen that way."

Belle hit closer Rod Beck's first pitch to shortstop Jeff Blauser, who started a routine 6-4-3 double play to put the finishing touches on a 7-6 victory.

Just like that, Belle's 11-game hitting streak was history. More important, the Cubs won their eighth straight game, improved their home record to 24-11 and enabled them to remain tied with Houston for the lead in the National League Central.

"It's a good feeling to be in the position we're in compared to last year," said Cubs starter Kevin Tapani (8-3).

"But it really doesn't mean anything, because there is so far to go."

At least the Cubs are going in the right direction. The Sox, who fell to 24-35, are within a few games of becoming the worst team in the American League.

While Belle, the Sox's $55 million slugger, went 0 for 5 Saturday, Derrick White, who was toiling at Triple-A Iowa 10 days ago, joined Cubs-Sox rivalry folklore when he ripped a two-run pinch homer to put the Cubs ahead 6-5 in the sixth.

White, a 28-year-old reserve outfielder, drove Scott Eyre's fastball over the bleachers in left-center and onto Waveland Avenue.

"I made a bad pitch and it cost me the game--plain and simple," said Eyre, who fell to 1-6.

Eyre was trying to come inside, but he left his first pitch to White belt-high and over the plate.

"We didn't execute when we had to," Manuel said. "And they did."