Konerko leads White Sox past Royals
First baseman goes 3-for-4 with two homers, five RBIs
KANSAS CITY -- Before the game, a reporter asked White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen if he planned to sit his slumping slugger Paul Konerko. Guillen answered that the only way to get him out of his slump was to play him.
Looks like Ozzie knows best.
"I never sit players on the bench because there's trouble," Guillen said. "My job is just to try to get them to go out and play the game. Don't worry about it; you'll do good."
Konerko broke out of his 6-for-46 slump with three hits, including a pair of two-run home runs, a sacrifice fly and five RBIs, to lead his mates to a 7-4 triumph over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Monday night. Konerko had entered the game hitting .130, but notched the game-winner in the eighth with a two-run blast off Royals reliever David Riske.
"It feels good to put good work in and take it into a game and actually use it," Konerko said. "That was my goal, to compete, and then laugh or cry after the game."
Guillen was the second-happiest person to see Konerko catch fire.
"He needed it bad," Guillen said. "He was going crazy."
Mark Buehrle started on the mound for the Sox. He was coming off a nifty no-hitter last week against Texas which earned him American League Player of the Week honors. He picked up Tuesday night right where he had left off, retiring 13 of the first 14 hitters he faced.
"I kind of joked. I came out after the first inning and told them I had a no-hitter again," Buehrle said. "Coming off a no-hitter, I figured something crazy was going to happen -- go out there and give up 10 hits or get beat around a little bit. But, I did a lot better than I thought I would."
"I was disappointed after the first hit," Guillen joked. Guillen said he had the feeling in Spring Training things were going to work out well for his left-hander this year.
Buehrle and KC's Gil Meche had hooked up in a 0-0 pitchers' duel into the fifth until the Royals drew first blood. Esteban German, starting at third in the place of struggling rookie Alex Gordon, stroked a double into left-center. Hot-hitting catcher John Buck followed with his fourth homer of the season to make it, 2-0. That snapped Buehrle's scoreless string at 19 innings.
The White Sox tied it at 2 in the sixth, when Tadahito Iguchi stroked a double into the right-field corner. Konerko then hit the next Meche pitch just over the left-field bullpen gate. Up to that point, the Sox had only managed three harmless singles off Meche.
Konerko said the home run was the last thing on his mind.
"It doesn't ever really concern me when I'm not hitting them, because they have a tendency to come in bunches," he said.
Konerko said he thought he had a pretty good plan for Monday night and stuck to it.
"Every pitch of every at bat, I thought I was pretty disciplined," he said.
The Royals retook the lead at 3-2 in the sixth. Chicago tied it again in the seventh, when Darin Erstad singled home Joe Crede. The White Sox went ahead for good in the eighth, when Konerko homered for the second time.
Buehrle retired after seven innings and 103 pitches and picked up his second win of the season. Four Chicago relievers combined to finish the game, with Bobby Jenks pitching the ninth for his seventh save and a tie for the American League lead.
"I feel confident in all my pitches," Buehrle said. "There towards the end I missed a couple of spots, and they took advantage of it. But overall, I was getting ahead in the count and making pitches when I needed to make pitches."
"Buehrle threw the ball great," said Guillen, who added the bullpen was "a little shaky."
"The bullpen needs to throw more strikes," Guillen said. "If they hit it, I can live with that. If you make those guys swing the bat, you have a chance. When you're walking people, you're looking for trouble."
Meche also pitched seven innings and recorded a no-decision. Reliever Jimmy Gobble faced one batter, threw one pitch, gave up a single to Jim Thome and suffered the loss.
Tadahito Iguchi and Thome joined Konerko in pacing the 12-hit Sox attack. Iguchi had two hits, including a double, and scored two runs. Thome pounded two hits in five trips and scored a run and drove in a run.
Max Utsler is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.