Konerko belts three in monster day
Slugger sets career best with seven RBIs vs. Indians
CHICAGO -- Following the 10-6 victory for the White Sox over the Indians Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, manager Ozzie Guillen opened his press conference by issuing an apology.
That request for forgiveness was given to first baseman Paul Konerko, who had just finished off the first three home run game of his storied career and the first one accomplished by a White Sox player at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I feel bad because earlier, I mentioned a couple names who could have made the All-Stars from our team, and I didn't say Paul Konerko," said Guillen with a laugh. "That's a little embarrassing when one of the most consistent players you have this year, and his name wasn't there when the guy should be there. I don't think that's fair. I apologize to him."
Konerko matched the entire home run output from the Indians on this given night. He launched a 2-0 pitch from starter Jeremy Sowers into the left-center-field stands for a solo shot in the second, and in the seventh, Konerko hit a two-run shot down the left-field line off reliever Winston Abreu.
Konerko's 744 feet of home runs were sandwiched around his eighth career grand slam in the sixth inning -- coming off of beleaguered reliever Chris Perez -- which turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead. It also made a winner of Mark Buehrle and dropped Sowers to 0-6 lifetime against the White Sox.
"It just goes to show you can't fall behind against a hitter like him," said Sowers of Konerko. "He's a heck of a hitter. You've got to keep the ball down and work ahead. As with any hitter with 25 to 30 home runs a year, they get locked in on those advantageous counts."
"We're smart. We gave him two days off," said a smiling Guillen, who rested Konerko in Sunday's series finale at Kauffman Stadium prior to Monday's off-day. "We know he's going to do this today."
Seven RBIs represented a single-game career high for Konerko and the most by a White Sox player since Tadahito Iguchi drove in seven against Houston on June 25, 2006. His trio of long balls raised his season total to 16. Konerko has six home runs in his last 13 games and picked up the 24th multi-homer game of his career. His eight grand slams tie Carlos Lee and Frank Thomas for second-most in White Sox history.
Pat Seerey holds the team record with four home runs at Philadelphia on July 18, 1948. Konerko is the first White Sox player to go deep three times in a game since Jose Valentin on July 30, 2003, at Kauffman Stadium and the first at home since Harold Baines against Detroit 27 years ago to the day.
But even with the game well at hand and the two home runs behind him, Konerko wasn't trying to clear the fences in his last at-bat against Abreu.
"You know, it crosses your mind, but I just tried to tell myself to swing at strikes," Konerko said. "Whatever happens, make it be on a strike. I got back in the count. I fell down, 0-2, and battled back a little bit and just tried to make a good decision on balls and strikes.
"Not really trying to hit a home run [there]. They don't happen when you do that. I was just trying to make it be a strike and make a good decision about swinging on it."
As for Konerko's last three home run game, it came in Vancouver in 1998 when he was playing Triple-A baseball. Tuesday's effort put Konerko just six home runs short of his 2008 total and only five RBIs behind his entire 2008 output of 62.
Basically, he did a week's worth of work in one night.
"PK has been consistent. All year long," Guillen said. "Maybe he learned from last year how much of a struggle it was and how much you have to fight and put a lot of time in the cage and try to figure out what to do. Since Spring Training, he's been swinging the ball real well."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.