White Sox homers deep-six Dodgers
Fields cranks two of Chicago's half-dozen long balls
CHICAGO -- Summer officially arrived Wednesday night on the South Side of Chicago.
It wasn't a certain date or temperature that triggered this particular realization. Instead, it was the six home runs hit by the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field during their 10-7 victory over the Dodgers.
That home run total was the most hit by the White Sox (34-37) since June 8, 2004, against Philadelphia, when they also blasted six, and one short of the franchise record set on April 23, 1955, at Kansas City. When the hot and humid weather arrives, fans in the outfield seats at U.S. Cellular better beware.
"When the weather gets hot and humid, you try to get the ball up in the air and let it get going," said Paul Konerko, who hit a solo shot for his 11th homer in the fifth inning. "Sometimes, it's easier said than done."
"Tonight, it was flying pretty good," White Sox second baseman Jayson Nix said.
Out of these long balls, Josh Fields was the only one to go deep more than once. Fields launched a two-run shot off Randy Wolf (3-3) in the fourth, breaking a 3-3 tie, and then capped off a five-run fifth with his fifth home run, a solo blast off of hard-throwing reliever James McDonald.
Fields started at first base, with Jim Thome getting the night off against the left-handed Wolf and Konerko moving to designated hitter. He snapped a 0-for-16 funk with a second-inning single and had more than admirable production for a player with just 12 plate appearances since June 8.
According to the starting third baseman turned utility man, Fields has used this recent downtime to pick the brain of hitting coach Greg Walker and outfielder and good friend Carlos Quentin to help refine his approach. That work paid dividends to the tune of three hits on Wednesday and earned Fields a start at third base in Thursday afternoon's series finale, with Gordon Beckham getting a rest.
His hope is to build off Wednesday's momentum, while moving across the diamond defensively.
"I haven't done it before, so we'll see what happens," Fields said of moving from first to third on Thursday. "I'm just trying to go out and help my team win and take advantage of the opportunities given to me."
"He has as much or more power than anyone on this team," Konerko said. "If he gets on a roll and harnesses that, he can do some damage."
Alexei Ramirez actually started Wednesday's home run barrage with his fourth in seven games, coming in the first off Wolf. Jermaine Dye tied the score in the third with a two-run shot, after the Dodgers (47-25) pushed across two unearned runs against Gavin Floyd (5-5) during a three-run second.
Nix, getting a spot start of his own at second against a southpaw, hit a three-run shot two batters before Fields in the fifth. It was plenty of support for Floyd, who battled through 71 pitches after three innings and some rough defensive support in the second to give up one earned run on six hits over six innings.
"Gavin is just hanging tough," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Floyd, who fanned three and walked two, lowering his ERA to 1.60 in his past seven starts. "I think the first couple innings, we played pretty ugly baseball. But Gavin still hung in there and kept us in the game."
"Out of the bullpen, after warming up, it was hot," said Floyd, who threw 108 pitches in total. "You get out of the first inning unscathed and looking decent pitch count-wise, then go out there in the second inning and throw 40 pitches. I was pretty tired. I just tried to keep on battling and keep my strength and just really try to focus and pace myself and try to keep our team in the game."
Matt Kemp's three-run home run off of Jimmy Gobble in the eighth cut the White Sox advantage to three and forced Guillen to go to Octavio Dotel and Bobby Jenks (18th save) in order to keep the White Sox six games behind the Tigers in the American League Central. But it was a rare sign of home offense from this 2009 squad that helped lock down this victory.
Until Wednesday, the White Sox had a .280 average on the road with 173 runs scored and had a .217 average at home with a mere 119 runs scored. Their 13 hits give the White Sox a chance to win a series from the best team in baseball going into this weekend's Crosstown Showdown with the Cubs.
"Hopefully, this is the start of something good," Konerko said. "A lot of homers. A lot of runs. We haven't had too many of those this year anywhere, but definitely not at home. This place plays a lot different in June, July and August than April, May and September. Other teams hit here, too, so we also have to make good pitches."
"We've been struggling with our offense at home," Fields said. "To come out and go off like that, it was a good day. Hopefully, we didn't get rid of all of it and saved some for tomorrow."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.