06/27/2004 5:56 PM ET
Sox wax Maddux in series win
South Siders secure Chicago bragging rights
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Carlos Lee was walking back to the clubhouse during batting practice Sunday morning when one of the White Sox administrators asked the left fielder what happened to his 'Cubs killer' status.
Lee entered the weekend with a career .339 average against the Cubs, eight home runs and 30 RBIs. But he was hitless in his first two games against the North Siders at U.S. Cellular Field.
"That's not me anymore," Lee said with a smile. "I gave it all to [Paul] Konerko."
Judging by Konerko's production during the last three games, Lee wasn't joking. The White Sox first baseman drove in three runs during a 9-4 victory over the Cubs on Sunday before a sellout crowd of 38,526, giving the South Siders a series victory over their crosstown rivals and giving Konerko nine RBIs since Friday.
The victory, coupled with Minnesota's loss to Milwaukee, moved the White Sox back within one game of the Twins in the AL Central Division. The Cubs fell five games behind St. Louis, although remained tied for the National League Wild Card lead with the Reds.
Konerko talked prior to the Cubs series of how much he enjoys being a part of this rivalry. His .359 average with six home runs and 17 RBIs in his last 12 games against the Cubs prove that he also enjoys going against their top-notch pitching.
"It's one of those series where you come up with men on base, your teammates get out there for you and you get good pitches to hit," said Konerko, now hitting .281 with a team-high 52 RBIs. "My goal was to swing the bat and be aggressive, and be up there hacking. I wasn't trying to work deep into counts.
"Sometimes, you need some luck and get some good pitches to hit. I'll just take it and run with it."
Konerko put the White Sox (39-33) in front in the first inning with a two-out, two-run single off of Greg Maddux (6-6). Konerko added a sacrifice fly during a three-run third, giving the White Sox a 6-4 lead they would never relinquish.
Timo Perez, who had six hits in 15 at-bats coming into the game against Maddux, provided the game-winner with a two-run home run to right that scored Jose Valentin. Maddux, just five wins away from 300, was knocked around the park to the tune of 11 hits and seven earned runs allowed over four-plus innings.
"He was up in the zone," said Cubs manager Dusty Baker of Maddux. "I was hoping he would find his stuff because the bullpen was short today. I just wanted him to keep them down and give us a chance to get in the game."
"You have to get him early," Valentin added of facing Maddux. "If you let him get away, it will get tougher and tougher."
The Cubs (41-34) hung tough early on against Esteban Loaiza, thanks primarily to a pair of mammoth home runs from Sammy Sosa. But once the White Sox took control, Loaiza shut down the North Siders.
Loaiza, who received relief help from Cliff Politte and Damaso Marte, allowed four earned runs on 10 hits and struck out four, improving to 8-3 for the season. The right-hander sits two wins short of 100 for his career.
"It's getting close," said Loaiza with a smile of reaching 100 victories. "I felt good out there, and we really hit the ball well today."
Ozzie Guillen had a quick mound conference with Loaiza in the third, following Sosa's second home run and Aramis Ramirez's single to center. The manager's words of wisdom worked wonders.
"When I went to the mound, I was a little upset because he wasn't focused and he wasn't throwing the pitches he was supposed to throw," Guillen said of Loaiza. "He wasn't aggressive like we've seen in the past.
"I told him, 'If you hold them down here, we have a chance to win this game. If you want to win this game, you'd better step up and pitch the way you should be pitching.'"
Life doesn't get easier for the White Sox, as they venture to Minnesota for three games and come back home to Chicago for three over the Fourth of July weekend at Wrigley Field. They built up momentum this weekend by virtue of two wins over the Cubs, giving them a 22-17 edge since the Interleague competition began in 1997.
But losing that momentum in the Metrodome would slightly lessen this weekend's accomplishments.
"We showed a lot of heart this weekend," Konerko said. "We came back and beat two great pitchers and won the series. It was a little harder than we wanted. Now we can move on and hopefully win this next one against Minnesota. There's no let up for us.
"The human thing to do is to let down after a big series like this. We have to be ready to play Tuesday night. Minnesota doesn't care we had a big series. We have to dial it back in Tuesday night. We gained some ground the last few days and we don't want to give it back."
|Esteban Loaiza tips his cap to the sellout crowd at U.S. Cellular Field. (Jeff Roberson/AP)
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.