Konerko's 400th White Sox homer highlights sweep

Konerko's 400th White Sox homer highlights sweep

Konerko's 400th White Sox homer highlights sweep
CHICAGO -- Gordon Beckham stood on first base during the eighth inning of Sunday's 12-6 White Sox victory over the Indians before 22,182 at U.S. Cellular Field when he happened to get a glance at Paul Konerko's name on the scoreboard.

"I looked up and he was .399 with 11 home runs and whatever," said a smiling Beckham, who was as impressed as everyone else with Konerko's amazing accomplishments. "It's nice to have everybody clicking, and when you have a guy like that in the middle of the order, it's not a surprise that we're winning games. He's been so good."

Calling Konerko good right now seems to sell short the video game-like numbers put together by the White Sox's captain over the last few weeks.

Factoring in Sunday's 2-for-4 showing, Konerko has raised his average to a Major League-best .399 for the season. His three-run homer off of Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez (5-4) with two outs in the fourth proved to be the game-winner and extended Konerko's hitting streak to 13 games.

Konerko is hitting .565 over the last 13 games and the first baseman has 23 hits over his last 36 at-bats with five homers and 14 RBIs in the last 10 games. The blast Konerko delivered on a 2-2 slider also happened to be career homer No. 407, but the 400th homer to come during his years with the White Sox (26-22).

Frank Thomas, who turned 44 on Sunday, tops the franchise with his 448 homers as a member of the White Sox. But even Konerko acknowledged the meaning of White Sox homer No. 400, making it stand out more coming from the consummate professional who never talks about individual numbers.

"That one does [mean something], just from the longevity standpoint of being here," said Konerko, who has 11 homers and 33 RBIs this season. "It's probably the thing I'm proud of most more than any numbers.

"In today's game, it takes a pretty good effort on both sides to make that happen, so I think that I'm proud of that because I wanted that to happen and I respect the fact they wanted it to happen on the other side. It's cool, but it's one of those things you look back on when you are done and I'll enjoy it more then. We are in the middle of the grind now."

This pace set by Konerko is as hot as the 96-degree summer temperatures in Chicago. But there was more than Konerko this weekend to the hard-charging White Sox, who completed a three-game sweep of the American League Central-leading Indians (26-21) and moved within half a game of first place with their fifth straight win. The White Sox also have won nine of their last 10 games.

During those nine wins, the White Sox have outscored their opponents by a combined 74-31 margin.

"They're playing well," said Indians designated hitter Johnny Damon, whose three-run homer in the second brought the Indians even at the time. "It seems like we caught the White Sox at the wrong time."

"We've got a lot of talent. It's nice to have that all come out at the same time," said Beckham, who matched a career-high with four hits and raised his average to .224. "It's good to get going like this at the end of May, and hopefully keep going."

Jimenez and reliever Jairo Asencio were the prime victims of the latest White Sox offensive assault, as the two combined to give up 10 runs on 12 hits. Every White Sox starter reached base and every starter but Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers had at least one hit.

Gavin Floyd (4-5) and Jimenez both struggled through four innings. But after Konerko connected for the go-ahead shot, Floyd retired the side in order in the fifth to maintain control for Chicago.

Floyd still yielded five runs on 10 hits over five-plus innings and put the eighth and ninth hitters on base six times combined. He hit three batters on two-strike pitches.

Factoring in Sunday's effort, Floyd has given up 28 hits and 21 earned runs over his last 14 2/3 innings. He managed to minimize the damage on Sunday, holding the Indians to one total run over the third and the fourth innings, when they had seven baserunners. Then, Konerko gave his starter some room to work.

"I'm trying to go out there and put up zeros," Floyd said. "By no means does it make you at ease or anything like that. You're trying to go out there and make pitches and get those guys out."

Orlando Hudson's two-run triple and Alejandro De Aza's ensuing triple gave the White Sox a 10-4 lead after scoring three in the fifth. Dayan Viciedo's two-run single in the eighth, leaving him with 20 RBIs in his last 13 games, capped off the weekend destruction featuring Konerko and his late-May pursuit of .400.

"Everything he touches is finding pasture or finding the bleachers," said Damon of Konerko.

Cleveland played without Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana for much of the three-game set. But they wouldn't have been called upon to shut down this red-hot White Sox offense, which hit .321 with 13 homers over a 5-1 home stand.

"Every guy wants to go up there and contribute," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Those are good at-bats. It just continues. Every guy is going up there with a good approach."

"Any time you're missing your 3-4-5 guys also, it can be tough on a team," Damon said. "It was a tough series. We also have to remember that we're in first place."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.