Paul Konerko hit his first home run of the season, but couldn't come through with the game on the line.
Konerko belted a Wade Miley fastball for a two-run homer in the fifth, but grounded out with the tying run on second as the White Sox lost to Arizona, 4-3, Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox offense, dormant for most of the game, mounted a ninth inning rally against former teammate Addison Reed. Down 4-2, Conor Gillaspie led off with a single and reached second on a wild pitch. After Reed struck out Jose Abreu and Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez singled in Gillaspie to set up Konerko's at-bat.
Konerko said he wanted to jump on the first pitch Reed threw — a 92 mile per hour fastball right down the middle — but instead laid off the pitch. Ramirez stole second on the next pitch, again a strike.
He fought off the next pitch, took a slider away and then hit a soft grounder to second to end the game.
"I could have probably hit it, but most times, you would rather take your two strikes with a guy in scoring position," Konerko said. "That’s what it was. From there you are kind of battling."
Konerko's two-run homer in the fifth was No. 435 in his career, moving him past Juan Gonzalez and Andruw Jones for 42nd on the all-time home run leaderboard. It came in Konerko's eighth start of the season, though he's been building on some success for the last few weeks.
In Konerko's last five starts, he's 8-for-19 with three doubles, five RBI and a home run. He's had a handful of pinch hitting appearances in that span, too, and acting manager Mark Parent said even at 38 years old, Konerko's still learning how to adjust to his on-field role.
"Paulie does his work, he stays ready," said Parent, managing the White Sox Saturday with Robin Ventura attending his daughter's graduation from Oklahoma State. "He's not the kind of guy that's going to go in there and say I need to play more or whatever, he's staying ready for when he gets a chance to play. He's ready to pinch hit all the time. He's finding out that way of life in the big leagues is pretty tough, being ready sixth inning on."
Konerko described a balancing act with his sporadic playing time between trying to make an impact when he plays and trying to stay within himself. He nearly came up with the big game he wanted, but fell one swing short.
"In the role I’m in, you’d like to go in and do big things, but it’s kind of that back and forth between not trying to do too much to where you totally get out of control but you would like to try to be in a good position to drive the ball," Konerko said. "It’s a balance between the two."
"… When you are not playing as much, you kind of want to get as much as you can out of one game."