Konerko, Andruw key White Sox comeback
Two homers, pinch-hit slam spark 12-run reversal
CHICAGO -- Somewhere around the seventh inning of the White Sox 12-6 victory over the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday afternoon, a fan seated in the ballpark's 300 level held up a sign representative of the White Sox remote 2010 American League Central title chances.
It read, "Miracle on 35th Street."
If not for the White Sox (79-64) scoring 12 unanswered runs against the Royals (58-84) after spotting Kansas City a 6-0 lead in the first, that miracle would have been a near impossibility. The division-leading Twins coming to town for three games, starting Tuesday, really wouldn't have mattered much.
"It was a good win," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team remained six games behind Minnesota in the AL Central. "We started poorly and came back. I think it was a huge win."
"They got six in the first and we came back with 12 unanswered [runs]," said White Sox reliever Scott Linebrink, who threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. "It shows the resiliency of this team."
Lucas Harrell made the spot start on Sunday, just the second of his career, with Freddy Garcia sidelined by a stiff back. Six of the first seven Royals reached base, with Billy Butler and Bryan Pena launching three-run home runs.
A six-run deficit, even in the opening frame, seems a bit daunting, especially with the White Sox having hit .173 overall while losing four of their last five games. But Royals starter Sean O'Sullivan and his 6.64 ERA on the road this season didn't exactly strike fear in the White Sox offense.
Having AL Most Valuable Player candidate Paul Konerko in the middle of the White Sox lineup also helps the comeback cause.
Konerko launched a two-out, two-run home run in the first, giving the White Sox a little life. He added another two-run shot against O'Sullivan in the third, raising Konerko's totals to 36 home runs and 104 RBIs. Konerko recorded the fourth 30-homer/100-RBI season of his illustrious career and moved past Joe DiMaggio for sole possession of 70th place on Major League's all-time list with 362 long balls.
On Sunday, it was all about keeping the White Sox afloat. Actually, once the season begins, it's never about personal numbers for Konerko.
"PK has been awesome all year long," Guillen said. "But right now, he is swinging the bat better than anyone else."
"He's tough," said Royals manager Ned Yost of Konerko, now hitting .322. "We threw him a fastball up and he drove it over the fence in center field. Then we tried to go in for a ball and left it over the plate for a strike. He's just too good of a hitter."
After Konerko broke the six-all deadlock with a single off of Phil Humber (1-1), scoring Omar Vizquel in the sixth, Andruw Jones capped off this offensive outburst three batters later with a pinch-hit grand slam off Blake Wood. It was Jones' fifth career grand slam and the club's first of the pinch-hit variety since Dewayne Wise on Sept. 14, 2008, against Detroit.
Jones' 407 career home runs leave him tied with Duke Snider for 45th on the all-time list. All of this production brought the lively crowd to its feet, but it was Gordon Beckham's defense at second in the fourth that allowed the bats to go to work.
With the bases loaded and one out, following a Linebrink walk to Kila Ka'aihue, Linebrink fell behind, 3-1, to Wilson Betemit.
Betemit hit the next pitch hard to the right of Beckham, up the middle. But Beckham made the play and flipped the ball with his glove to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who completed the inning-ending double play and maintained the 6-6 tie.
"Like I always say, good defense gives you a chance to win," Guillen said. "When [Beckham] made the play, I think everyone got pumped up and got better at-bats and better efforts."
"That to me, if that ball gets through or it's a walk there, they start breaking it open," Konerko said. "I thought that was probably the big momentum shifter. From there, we kind of took the reins and went and got that game."
Linebrink, Sergio Santos (2-0), J.J. Putz, Matt Thornton and Chris Sale combined to throw 5 2/3 shutout innings, fanning nine, and finishing off this important victory. Survival is the key word from Sunday's effort.
These 19 games remaining on the schedule fall under the do-or-die category for the second-place White Sox, so it's fairly black and white.
Even with this 12-run explosion factored in, the White Sox elimination number slipped to 14 courtesy of a 6-2 victory for Minnesota (85-58) in Cleveland. For the last time this season, the White Sox will have destiny in their own hands.
Two or three losses to the Twins, and the Minor League callups who finished Sunday's victory will be receiving a great deal of playing time. Two wins for the White Sox still makes it an uphill battle at a five-game deficit with 16 to play.
As for a three-game White Sox sweep, against arguably Minnesota's three best starters in Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing and Carl Pavano? Well, maybe White Sox fans will start to believe a little bit more that miracles really do come true on 35th Street.
"We knew Minnesota had won [Sunday], and now we're just trying to hang with them," Konerko said. "Hopefully, we can do something good here starting Tuesday. But we know it's uphill."
"There's no doubt we have to at least win the series against them," Guillen said. "We have to. We don't have any choice."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.