Strong offense, pitching extend streak

Strong offense, pitching extend streak

CHICAGO -- If Paul Konerko's first triple in eight years isn't enough proof that the White Sox offense is ready to roll, then Joe Crede's two home runs and six RBIs should do the trick.

Konerko's three-base hit started a four-run White Sox rally in the second inning that would have been more than enough to beat the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday night. Instead, the White Sox scored seven more runs in the game and drubbed Minnesota, 11-2.

The team's fifth straight win extended the White Sox lead in the American League Central to 4 1/2 games, but White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is not ready to say his club is making a statement.

"Baseball gods can get you when you all of a sudden get cocky," Guillen said. "We're just playing good right now and we're swinging the bat well, the way we thought we were going to swing."

Crede's big night overshadowed Konerko's uncharacteristic triple. The third baseman is the first White Sox player to hit two home runs in back-to-back games since his predecessor, Greg Norton, did it on May 27-28, 1999, against Detroit. It is also the first time he has ever homered in three straight games.

The White Sox have hit 11 home runs in the first five games of their current homestand, and Crede accounts for five of them.

"I'm feeling good at the plate and it's just a matter of riding it out as long as you can," Crede said. "I think the biggest thing to my approach at the plate is that I'm not trying to hit the ball into one certain spot or pulling it or hitting it the other way. It's just me and [hitting coach Greg] Walker working in the cage, working on the path of the ball. You just kind of react to where the pitch is."

His six RBIs were one short of his career high, but they were the most by a White Sox hitter since Tadahito Iguchi's seven on June 25, 2006, against the Astros.

The game was delayed 33 minutes during the bottom of the first, and concerns about how starter Mark Buehrle would come back out were quickly put to rest.

Buehrle pitched eight strong innings, giving up just one run that came in the seventh, when Delmon Young connected for his first home run of the season.

It was certainly one of Buehrle's best outings in what has been an up-and-down season for the lefty.

"It's right up there as one of the better ones," Buehrle said. "Physically, I felt awesome. I love this temperature; I love throwing in hot weather like this. You get a good grip on the ball."

"Hopefully that's what we see every day out," Guillen added. "The expectation is real high. He's one guy I'm not worried about."

Buehrle (3-6) got back into the win column, somewhere he hadn't been since May 17 when he beat San Francisco. He, like many of the White Sox starters, has been a victim of low run support, and he was thankful for the 11-run outburst.

"I'm not gonna sit here and complain getting this many runs," Buehrle said. "But it's one of those things, like I've said all along, the offense struggled the first month, and everybody knew it. ... We gotta ride 'em while they're hot and keep doing what we've been doing."

And the team's hot streak just happened to flare up after Guillen's outburst last Sunday, something he still contends has been misinterpreted.

"I didn't send a message to scare people or wake them up. I just sent a message because I believe that's what we have," Guillen said of his team's offense. "That's the kind of ballclub we have and what kind of production we can get from the players. It's worked out pretty good for us. I said it because I've been managing those guys for a long time and I know what kind of players they are and what kind of hitters they are."

The White Sox have now won 17 of their last 23 games to move nine games over .500. Everyone in the lineup has contributed to the hot stretch, particularly Jim Thome, Nick Swisher and Konerko, who combined to go 6-for-11 at the plate with five runs scored and two RBIs on Saturday.

The team recorded 16 hits in consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 7-8, 2007, also against Minnesota.

"This ballpark fits well for us," Guillen said. "We have a lot of power players and we gotta keep people on base in case someone gets ahold of one.

"You see how easy it looks when the offense is there," Guillen continued. "We never had any doubt they were going to do what they're doing right now. The question was: When are they gonna start doing it?"

He's got his answer now.

David Just is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.