Konerko, Thornton focus on second half

Konerko, Thornton focus on second half

The two days of thrills and excitement coming from Paul Konerko's fourth All-Star appearance and Matt Thornton's All-Star debut came to an end Tuesday night via the National League's 3-1 victory at Angel Stadium.

Now, arguably the White Sox first-half Most Valuable Player and one of their most dominant hurlers during the team's 49-38 run to the American League Central lead can focus on the second-half challenge ahead. The degree of difficulty for Major League Baseball's hottest team, with eight straight wins moving torridly into the break, certainly will be high, beginning the second half with four in Minnesota, three in Seattle and three in Oakland.

Konerko believes those four games at Target Field, starting Thursday night, actually can be beneficial for a squad with 25 wins in its last 30 games.

"We finished on a good note in the first half, and I think it's good that we're opening up with a division rival, because that can kick us right back into gear," Konerko said. "I think that's a positive. They'll be tough games, but with the momentum we ended with, we can keep it going starting Thursday.

"Every team has qualities. Every team's a little different. But in the end, it's going to be the execution of how the whole team goes about the next 80 games. There are just so many different facets of the game that have to be there to win a division. It's not going to come down to just the hitting or just the pitching.

"It's got to be good together, and there's some luck involved. You have to stay healthy," Konerko said. "There are a lot of things that go into it. We're all kind of interlocked up there."

Both Thornton and Konerko got into action Tuesday night, with Thornton having a direct impact on the game's outcome by giving up the game-winning, bases-clearing double to Atlanta's Brian McCann in the seventh. Konerko, who had four hits in five previous All-Star at-bats, struck out looking in the sixth against Philadelphia's Roy Halladay and grounded out to third against San Francisco's Brian Wilson in the eighth.

Milwaukee, Detroit and Pittsburgh were the sites of Konerko's previous All-Star selections, so it was nice for the current Arizona resident to be close to home on the West Coast. Thornton, who also resides in Arizona, appreciated the effort put in by the host city.

"First class, all the way across the board," Thornton said. "They do everything right. It's just been a really neat experience, something I'm going to cherish for a long time. They've been very welcoming. The staff's been great. Anaheim, they're putting on a really nice show. Obviously, it's a lot of fun."

"They're all special as far as the guys you get to be in the same clubhouse with. It's good for the family and friends," said Konerko, who was a most-deserving injury replacement for Minnesota's Justin Morneau on Saturday night. "I think the family kind of gets more of a kick out of it. For us, I think it's something you enjoy probably later on. It's tough to enjoy it as you're doing it. But they're great. It's a good time."

Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, currently flirting with the American League Triple Crown, had his locker next to Konerko in Anaheim. The talented first basemen had the chance to discuss a little hitting and the AL Central race to be played out the coming months.

Even with the White Sox trailing by 9 1/2 games and sitting nine games under on June 8, their amazing closing kick gave them a one-half game lead over the Tigers and a 3 1/2-game edge on the Twins. They made up 13 games in the standings on the Twins in 30 games.

Tuesday's All-Star Game simply recognized two White Sox players who turned in exceptional first-half performances. Those strong efforts from Konerko and Thornton, and their teammates, of course, need to continue once regular-season action resumes Thursday for the White Sox to achieve postseason fulfillment.

"So, it's all for the taking, no matter who you are," Konerko said. "We've got [75] games to go. We'll see who plays the best. It'll probably go down to the last weekend again, if not further, so you have to be prepared for that."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.