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.

Miguel Gonzalez can't stop two-out rallies as White Sox fall to Oakland

Miguel Gonzalez can't stop two-out rallies as White Sox fall to Oakland

GLENDALE, Ariz. — His split-fingered fastball could use a little work, but Miguel Gonzalez is ready for the regular season.

The White Sox pitcher allowed four earned runs, all with two outs, in his penultimate Cactus League start on Wednesday. Gonzalez also gave up nine hits as the White Sox lost to the Oakland A’s 5-3 at Camelback Ranch.

"I'm pretty excited for (the regular season)," Gonzalez said. "We all know that spring can be a little long sometimes. But we are here, we are here to work and keep doing what we are doing. We are going to be OK."

Gonzalez allowed two runs each in the first and second innings. Both rallies came with two outs and were a bit of a surprise to the right-hander, who left after 4 1/3 innings. Gonzalez wonders if his split-fingered fastball might not be as sharp as normal because of the dry desert air in Arizona that affects many pitchers.

"It wasn't there today," Gonzalez said. "Not quite as good as I thought it would be. Bullpen I felt really good. Falling behind hitters first two innings. That doesn't really help you, especially a team like this that's very aggressive.

"I'm working on (the splitter). It's fine. I mean it's a little different then it is in Florida. It's not as humid. But you can't think that way. You have to go out there and keep working."

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Melky Cabrera went 1-for-3 with two RBIs for the White Sox. Yolmer Sanchez tripled and homered in the loss. Former White Sox farmhand Frankie Montas struck out four over two scoreless innings to earn the save for Oakland.

The White Sox sent four more players to minor league camp before the game, including reliever Tommy Kahnle. The team sent five players to the minors on Tuesday, including pitcher Carson Fulmer. While Fulmer would love to start the season in the majors, he said it won't hinder him from taking advantage of his time at Triple-A Charlotte.

"Obviously last year getting a taste, it's that dream you've had since you were a kid," Fulmer said. "You want more of it. It's not an addiction in a way. But once you get a taste of it you want more of it. All of us young guys are trying to get back to where we've been. I think time will tell, but I think we'll get a chance here soon and get a chance to create something special."

Team USA captures first World Baseball Classic championship

Team USA captures first World Baseball Classic championship

For the first time in the history of the World Baseball Classic, the United States of America walked away champions.

Team USA bested Puerto Rico in blowout fashion on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, winning the championship game by an 8-0 score at Dodger Stadium.

White Sox relief pitchers David Robertson and Nate Jones were part of the championship-winning American roster. Robertson pitched in Wednesday's game, closing things out with a scoreless ninth inning.

Cubs infielder Javy Baez came up short as a member of the Puerto Rican team. Baez went 0-for-3 with a strikeout on Wednesday.

Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman dominated the Puerto Rican lineup, pitching six no-hit innings before surrendering the first hit in the seventh inning.

The Americans crossed home plate eight times on the night, getting a two-run home run from Tigers infielder Ian Kinsler and two-run hits from Christian Yelich and Brandon Crawford. Andrew McCutchen also drove in two, and Kinsler and Nolan Arenado scored two runs apiece.

The Puerto Ricans mustered just three hits.

This was the first time the United States even advanced to the championship game in the four times the event has been staged. It's just the second top-four finish for the Americans. They finished fourth in 2009.