White Sox forget struggles, thump KC
Four home runs dispel doubts about Chicago's offense
CHICAGO -- Welcome to June at U.S. Cellular Field.
The crowds become a little bit larger with the kids out of school. The temperatures rise, and most importantly, the baseball starts to travel a little further.
That particular theory was on display Tuesday night, when the White Sox returned home from what seemed like spending the month of May on the road to knock out four home runs and claim a 9-5 victory over the Royals (23-35). Late spring and summer might be the perfect cure for what ails a White Sox offense that scored four runs over its last three consecutive losses.
The game marked the start of a stretch where the White Sox play 26 of their next 38 games in Chicago. It didn't hurt to kick that off against a Kansas City team with 13 losses in its last 15 contests. But on Tuesday night, the White Sox (31-26) were able to connect against Zack Greinke (5-3), who posted a 1.33 ERA over five games against the South Siders last season.
"Today, we faced one of the guys I never remember having good games against, and we attacked him pretty well," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen after the Sox scored eight runs on nine hits in Greinke's six innings of work.
"Greinke is tough, and we don't usually do much against him," added White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, whose three hits raised his average to a team-best .298. "He throws 95 or 96 [mph] with a good change and curve. Luckily for us, he made some mistakes tonight. It was good to get on him early."
Carlos Quentin, one of the few constant forces in an up-and-down 2008 White Sox attack, put the White Sox on the board in the first inning with a two-run home run down the right-field line that drove in Pierzynski. It was Quentin's 15th home run and 50th RBI, giving him 26 RBIs in his last 24 games.
A four-run second gave control to the White Sox. Orlando Cabrera singled home two runs and Pierzynski launched his first home run since April 22. It was his fourth of the season. Alexei Ramirez went deep in the sixth. The homer was one of three hits to raise his average to .275 and give him 15 hits in his last 35 at-bats.
His line shot into the left-center-field stands came two batters after Nick Swisher's prodigious clout to right-center for his fifth home run. Two innings earlier, Swisher had taken a called third strike from Greinke to watch his average dip below .200, but the home run was a step in the right direction.
"Just a great game for us as a team," Swisher said. "It's especially true coming off a three-game losing streak, especially in Tampa, where we should have and could have won a couple of those."
Gavin Floyd improved to 6-3 by allowing two earned runs over seven innings. He struck out four and didn't walk a hitter, a key trait for a pitcher working with a big lead. But Floyd said the on-field advantages didn't change his way of thinking on the mound.
"You just keep it the same," Floyd said. "Zero-to-zero, that's your mindset. We were taking good at-bats tonight. I just tried to keep them to zero and let the bullpen take it."
Along with getting a boost from returning home and playing in slightly warmer weather, the White Sox offense might have received a spark from Guillen's postgame diatribe in St. Petersburg on Sunday night. It wasn't vintage Guillen, with his comments being calculated to take the pressure off of his struggling team.
Instead, his words exhibited a little more fire and certainly caused an extra headache or two that even the White Sox manager couldn't have seen coming. It's not a motivational tool Guillen wants to bring out too often.
"Believe me, it's not healthy for myself," said Guillen with a smile and a shake of the head.
"It's so funny the way things are written and talked about in the media about not only myself but the team in general," Swisher added. "Then we go out and put up nine runs tonight off of a tough pitcher. I think you guys should write more bad stuff about us."
Winning this series opener on Tuesday, coupled with Baltimore's victory over Minnesota, moved the White Sox lead in the American League Central back to 1 1/2 games. And the fact to remember above all else, before the team's batting average or its ability to hit with runners in scoring position, is that the White Sox are sitting atop their division.
Guillen's hope is that the pitching continues to be stellar and the bats warm up as much as the playing conditions in Chicago.
"Those guys know I'm rooting for them. I'm the biggest fan they have," Guillen said. "When they do well, it's a reward for the coaches and myself. To me, it's not selfish. It's just trying to get the best out of them every day. I still believe we have great talent out there, and that's why it surprises me that we don't do more damage."
"Ozzie is one of those guys who loves the team and cares so much that he just wants us to do well," Swisher added. "[What Guillen said] might have been the nice kick in the pants we needed. We went out there tonight and did what we know we are capable of doing."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.