Uribe leads White Sox past Cubs

Uribe leads White Sox past Cubs

CHICAGO -- When Juan Uribe struggled earlier this season to stay above the Mendoza line offensively, trying to put together two hits in one week, let alone knocking the baseball around the ballpark in consecutive at-bats, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and hitting coach Greg Walker preached patience and faith in regard to their electric No. 8 hitter.

That patience and faith have been rewarded during the past few weeks, as Uribe entered Friday's series opener at Wrigley Field with 18 hits in his last 52 at-bats, batting .346 over that stretch. But it was during the White Sox 6-2 victory over the Cubs, before a crowd of 40,720 featuring seemingly split allegiances, when the streaky Uribe paid his biggest dividends of the 2006 season.

Uribe finished with three hits, including his ninth home run, raising his average to .241. He also drove in five of his team's six runs, giving Uribe 19 RBIs over the last 14 games, and the White Sox (52-27) their 16th win in their last 20 games and 18 wins in their last 23.

"He was the reason we pretty much won the game," said White Sox starting pitcher Jon Garland, who improved to 7-3 with the help of Uribe's offensive support. "That's a good sign when he starts getting hot."

"Well, he can be streaky," added Guillen of Uribe. "This kid can go a week without having a good swing, to being hot and carry a ballclub. The last couple of days, it seems like he's back on track. Our goal is for him to stay there and keep helping us."

The White Sox scored three runs in the first inning off of Cubs rookie Sean Marshall (4-7), and it was Uribe who prevented the left-hander from wriggling off the hook. Jermaine Dye's single drove home Scott Podsednik with the game's first run, but even with four of the first five hitters reaching base, Marshall took a step toward escaping the opening jam by inducing Joe Crede's bases-loaded popup to first baseman Derrek Lee with one out.

Marshall and Uribe battled to a 2-2 count, before the power-packed White Sox shortstop ripped a two-run single to left. Uribe's third-inning double, following Crede's two-out double, brought home the White Sox fourth run. Tireless work on Uribe's part with Walker, along with a move to a more open batting stance, helped make an afternoon such as Friday possible.

"It seems like it's been working very, very well lately," Uribe said. "I want to keep on working and try to help the team the rest of the year.

"I feel like it's a good thing about this team, anybody at any time can make the play or get the big hit. From one through nine and the bench players, anybody in any situation can be a hero. That's what happens when a team plays together."

Trailing, 3-0, the Cubs (29-50) actually cut the deficit to one in the bottom of the opening inning on run-scoring singles from Aramis Ramirez and Jacque Jones. But Guillen paid a mound visit to his right-hander in the first inning, preaching to Garland to maintain his aggressiveness regardless of the results.

Garland responded, eventually giving all five members of the White Sox starting rotation at least seven victories. He allowed two runs on three hits in the first, but pitched scoreless baseball on four hits over the next five innings.

"That was a real shock," said Garland of Guillen's visit. "Ozzie came out and really didn't get [on me], but he let me know, 'Here we go, stay on them.' It worked."

"His ball started sinking a lot better," Guillen added. "When I went to the mound, I said, 'I don't care if you are going to be here for two innings or nine innings. I want you to stay aggressive.'"

First baseman Paul Konerko provided Garland with valuable defensive assistance in the seventh, fielding Todd Walker's one-out grounder and throwing out Juan Pierre at the plate. It was a play that surprised catcher A.J. Pierzynski, and in Konerko's postgame estimation, was "not really the right thing to do right there."

"When he let it go, I thought, 'Oh, no,'" said Pierzynski of Konerko's play. "But [Konerko] made a good throw and I thought he was out. The replay showed he was out."

"I got a good jump on the ball forward, there was no preset thought or anything like that," Konerko added. "In fact, if anything, I was just thinking about getting an out. The play happened, and boom, it was over. I just went with it."

Uribe went with a first-pitch slider from Roberto Novoa in the eighth, capping off the scoring with his blast to left. With the victory, the White Sox improved to 13-3 during 2006 Interleague Play, 28-24 all-time against the Cubs and 99-74 in their Interleague history. The White Sox also raised their ledger to 19-8 in series openers.

The contribution from Uribe becomes especially important during Interleague games at National League parks. The White Sox already are down one hitter with the pitcher batting, not to mention Brian Anderson hitting .174 at the bottom of the order.

But when Uribe gets on a roll, he delivers more like a middle-of-the-order hitter than a struggling afterthought at the bottom. Friday's performance simply stood as the melding of perseverance and raw talent.

"It was great. It was perfect," said Pierzynski of Uribe's showing. "It was just what we needed."

"I know he was frustrated early on," Walker added. "But seeing him do well in the past, we patted him on the back and said, 'Keep going after them. When it clicks, you'll take it and run it out for a long time.'"

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