Konerko grand slam lifts White Sox

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Konerko grand slam lifts White Sox

Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010
Updated 11:54 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

If theres a baseball player in Chicago with more flair for the dramatic than Paul Konerko, have him stand forth and be judged.

On a day the White Soxs mainstay first baseman forecasted his departure from the club this offseason, it was only appropriate he iced Thursdays game with a full-count grand slam in the fourth inning, spurring an 8-2 rout of the Boston Red Sox. Konerko reached base in four of five trips to the plate and now stands at 39 homers, 111 RBI and an OPS of .981.

That was perfect, White Sox starter John Danks said of Konerkos clout.

All year, he wasnt giving up any at-bats, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of his captain, openly zealous about a possible 40-homer campaign for Konerko. Its max effort out there. Thats why he had a season like this.

Konerko, natch, was thinking little of 40 round-trippers.

Numbers are nice, but Ive done it before in 2004 and 2005, he said. Its good to have a nice, round number like 40, but I dont think about it too much.

Two innings after Konerkos clout, the baseball gods deemed the game already perfect and unworthy of continuing, pulling the plug on the ballpark lights and delaying the contest for 21 minutes.

Red Sox starter Jon Lester probably hoped that the plug was yanked for good. The southpaw came into the game with a glistening career record vs. the White Sox, at 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA, along with a 1.13 WHIP and 1.90 KBB. He had been unbeatable in September and October in his career against all AL opponents, going 16-2 with a 2.50 ERA. Lesters three starts in Chicago have been stellar: 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA, and overall no White Sox starter was hitting better than .222 for his career against him.

Lesters got four pitches and he can use both sides of the plate, Konerko said. You just have to keep scratching.

I was worried when I gave up a home run, Danks said of the two-run blast he surrendered to Victor Martinez in the third that put Boston ahead, 2-1. Lester is tough to score against.

That all changed on Thursday, when the Red Sox ace was pummeled for nine hits and eight earned runs in four innings, an outing that tacked more than a quarter-run onto his season ERA. Lester also lost a shot at becoming Bostons first 20-game winner in three seasons, finishing his campaign at 19-9.

We made him workhe had 99 pitches in four innings, Guillen said. Our offense did a tremendous job.

Konerkos grand slam paced a 2-3 night, but the offense was keyed by Juan Pierre, who reached base on his first four plate appearances, going 3-3 with a walk. Pierre also swiped three bags, giving him 66 on the season, a personal best.

Before the game, I was making fun of Pierre because I told him I wasnt playing him and he got angry with me, Guillen said. Im lucky to manage this guy. I love fast players. Speed never gets in a slump.

Before the baseball gods could darken the game, Dayan Viciedo (starting at Konerkos first base, with PK shifting to DH for the night) clouted an opposite-field, two-run homer in the fifth, which would close out the scoring.

Danks was sharp for the White Sox, tossing six innings of five-hit, one-run ball, striking out six. In his final start of 2010, the southpaw shaved his ERA down to 3.72 and extended career bests in wins (to 15) and strikeouts (162).

The White Sox have now spun wins in seven of eight games, finishing the 2010 campaign strong, just as Guillen promised they would.

Were going out there trying to win every game, and this was just another example of that, Danks said. Games like this make it fun to pitch, even when were out of it.

For Konerko, being feted with a curtain call from a rapturous U.S. Cellular Field crowd after his grand slam was a season highlight, and admittedly a career one.

That felt good, Konerko said. Curtain calls are really special. I remember all of themyou never know when your last one might be.

White Sox fans will go to sleep tonight praying it wasnt their final serenade of the Captain.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Last-place White Sox ready to trade, but only if the right offer arises

Last-place White Sox ready to trade, but only if the right offer arises

That the White Sox lost their fourth consecutive game doesn’t change the big picture plans of the franchise, which probably — but not definitely — will involve making at least one trade before the end of July.

Before the White Sox lost, 6-5, to the New York Yankees Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field, general manager Rick Hahn met with the media and delivered the same message he’s had since trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in December. The White Sox are open for business, and would like to make a number of moves to further bolster their farm system, but won’t make a trade if they don’t receive what they view to be a fair return.

“Would I be surprised (if we didn’t make a trade)? No, because I try not to be surprised by the dynamics of this market,” Hahn said. “Would I be mildly disappointed? Sure. We are here to try to improve this club.

“We feel we have certain first and desirable players that would help other clubs and may fit better on their competitive windows then they do on ours right now. And we intend to be active each day in trying to further accomplish what we set out to do a year ago at this time.

“But do we have to do it? No. That would be using an artificial spot on the calendar to force decision-making. That would be the last thing we need to do. We need to take a long term view of what we are trying to accomplish.”

Hahn didn’t name names, but Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson could be short-term fixes for contending clubs. Jose Quintana, who will start Tuesday against the Yankees, remains the team’s most valuable trade chip despite a 4.69 ERA that sits over run higher than his career average.

Frazier homered Monday and entered the game hitting .262/.351/.524 since Memorial Day. Cabrera similarly has found success after a slow start, slashing a healthy .324/.375/.482 in his previous 34 games before picking up two hits in four at-bats Monday. And Robertson, who’s been linked to the relief-starved Washington Nationals for months, has 41 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings with 11 saves.

“We want to be able to do as much as we can in our power to get this team to where it needs to be,” Hahn said. “Yes, there’s an element of competitiveness involved in that. There’s an element of patience involved in that. But at the end of the day, we have to — we get paid to be prudent in our decision making. We have to make the right decision.”

In the meantime, the White Sox looked the part of a rebuilding team with the worst record in the American League on Monday. Starter David Holmberg struggled, allowing six runs on five hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings — but only two of those runs were earned thanks to errors by Holmberg, Frazier and Matt Davidson.

As the Yankees took advantage of those miscues with three runs in both the fourth and sixth innings, Jordan Montgomery retired nine consecutive White Sox batters and went on to cruise with eight strikeouts over seven innings. The White Sox – as they’ve done quite a bit this year – still showed fight late, battling back in the ninth inning.

Tim Anderson ripped a three-run home run in the ninth inning off Yankees left-hander Chasen Shreve to bring the White Sox within two. Joe Girardi quickly turned to Aroldis Chapman, who allowed a run when Jose Abreu doubled home Melky Cabrera. But the tying run was stranded on second when Avisail Garcia grounded out and Frazier flew out to end the game.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Top pick Jake Burger can't wait to someday take a bite out of Chicago; When will Sox trades begin?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Top pick Jake Burger can't wait to someday take a bite out of Chicago; When will Sox trades begin?

After taking batting practice for the first time with the White Sox, number-one pick Jake Burger sat down with Chuck Garfien to talk about getting drafted by his favorite team, what it was like getting a phone call from Paul Konerko, why he wants to be a leader like Jonathan Toews, playing on Team USA with Seth Beer and more.  

Then CSN's Dan Hayes joins Garfien to discuss the return of Carlos Rodon, when the White Sox might start making trades, and Rick Renteria's short temper with umpires.   

Listen here to ketchup with top prospect Jake Burger: