Konerko extends White Sox streak to 11
Eighth-inning, game-winning blast second in three games
CHICAGO -- The first annual BP Crosstown Cup belongs to the White Sox, regardless of what happens in Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Oh, yes. So does an 11-game winning streak, the team's longest since winning 12 straight from June 17-27, 1961, courtesy of Saturday's exciting 3-2 victory before 39,479.
For the second time in three days, it was team captain Paul Konerko who put the hammer down on a win. Konerko's two-run, eighth-inning blast off Atlanta reliever Takashi Saito helped the White Sox complete a three-game sweep on Thursday afternoon.
Konerko's one-out solo shot once again in the eighth off Cubs reliever Andrew Cashner (0-1) gave the White Sox (39-34) their 15th win in the last 16 games and raised their amazing 2010 Interleague record to 15-2. The White Sox first baseman also answered the question as to how far a 100-mph Cashner fastball flies when a consummate hitter makes contact.
On Saturday night, Konerko's reply was 403 feet into the left-field stands.
"After he had thrown one by me, I threw all my chips in the middle and said, 'He'll probably come at it again and if he throws something else, go back to the dugout,'" said Konerko, who drove out his 19th home run on Cashner's 1-2 offering. "See it and let it fly. He doesn't give you much time to react. He throws pretty hard."
"It's one thing about him, [Konerko] doesn't panic in crucial situations," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "He's very professional. With the game on the line, he's more relaxed, more confident, and concentrates a little bit better. He has gotten a lot of clutch hits for a long time. He's a guy you get used to getting good at-bats all the time."
This eighth-inning Konerko shot served as the culmination of a well-played pitchers' duel between the White Sox Freddy Garcia and the Cubs' Carlos Silva. Neither starter factored in the decision, with J.J. Putz improving to 4-2 through his 16th straight scoreless relief appearance, but Garcia and Silva gave their respective teams a chance to win.
Silva exited after six innings, allowing just two runs on three hits. The White Sox scored in the third on Alex Rios' two-out single, bringing home Gordon Beckham, who opened the frame with a triple but was still at third when Juan Pierre popped out to second baseman Ryan Theriot and Omar Vizquel lined out to shortstop Starlin Castro.
Alexei Ramirez's sacrifice fly in the sixth brought home Konerko, giving the White Sox a run without benefit of a hit. The Cubs (32-42) tied the game in the seventh, when Aramis Ramirez hit his 12th lifetime home run against the South Siders. But Garcia left Alfonso Soriano at third after he arrived there with one out, striking out Geovany Soto looking and setting down Theriot on a ground ball to Ramirez.
Garcia gave up eight hits and struck out five over seven innings, as White Sox starting pitchers now have a 12-1 record, 1.91 ERA and 16 quality starts in their last 17 games. His stellar pitching in the seventh helped the White Sox compensate for the absence of closer Bobby Jenks, who was at home dealing with a family matter, and kept Garcia, who threw just 94 pitches, unblemished career-wise against the Cubs.
"Freddy, Freddy, Freddy. Wow. Amazing. I don't know what I can say about him. He's been outstanding," said Guillen. "I never would have thought this guy was going to be doing what he's doing. I know he's not going to lose against the Cubs. I guarantee you that. This guy loves big games, he loves to show up and prove how good he is."
"They're playing good baseball -- give them credit," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella of the beyond red-hot White Sox. "They're getting the big hit when needed, they're getting good pitching. They're playing a good brand of baseball and being rewarded with a lot of wins."
That abundance of wins also has moved the White Sox into a second-place tie with Detroit in the American League Central, marking the first time they have been in such a position since April 7 at 1-1. Minnesota stayed 1 1/2 games ahead of both teams via a shutout victory over the Mets earlier on Saturday.
And then there's the Crosstown Cup glory, secured by Matt Thornton, whose third save also stood up as his first since May 28 at Tampa Bay. The Cup was presented to the White Sox at home plate shortly after Soriano's around-the-horn, double-play grounder closed out matters, and the White Sox didn't seem to know exactly how to approach it.
Team captain Konerko made an executive decision. Konerko humorously explained how Vizquel was the oldest player on the roster who hadn't won the Cup, so the infielder hoisted it up before the White Sox returned to the clubhouse.
Pardon the White Sox if they weren't overjoyed with the official series win over the Cubs, giving them a 41-36 series edge. Fifteen days ago, the Cup looked as if it would be the only prize played for by Guillen's crew this year, but now it has far loftier goals on the docket.
A franchise-record 19 straight wins could be next on the horizon.
"I'm glad we won it and I'm glad we played well enough to win it," Beckham said. "I think, in a way, it's a little overkill to go out there and have a cup after a regular-season game. But it is what it is. We won it this year and hopefully we can continue."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.