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CHICAGO (AP) Paul Konerko senses a different flavor to the Cubs-White Sox crosstown series this time around. Maybe it’s that both teams have losing records, that the first three-game series is at night at the beginning of the week, instead of on the weekend.
No complaints, though, from the White Sox’s hottest hitter.
“It does feel a little different,” Konerko said Tuesday night after he homered for the fifth straight game and the White Sox beat the Cubs 3-2 in a rain-delayed game with Brent Morel hitting a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the seventh.
“It’s still way above a regular-season game. You still have that pump up from these games, it’s not like a run of the mill game,” Konerko added. “It has a little different flavor to it. That’s the way it goes. It’s no big deal.”
And that’s also how Konerko is approaching his latest power surge that has featured 11 homers in his last 20 games. He’s the sixth White Sox’s player to homer in five straight games and the first since Carlos Lee in 2003.
“All I’m trying to do is go out there, trying to get my body and myself in a good position to let it go. Make good decisions, good pitch to hit, bad pitch to hit,” Konerko said.
“Sometimes it just lines up. You feel good, you get good pitches, the weather is good for it. You have those little streaks, homers, RBIs, doubles, all kinds of power stuff, that kind of comes in bunches anyway. I don’t really read too much into it.”
The game was delayed for 1 hour, 44 minutes after a thunderstorm hit U.S. Cellular Field in the top of the sixth with one out and the Cubs having runners on the corners.
Winds made it difficult for the grounds crew to get the tarp on the field and then when it was time to take it off, the infield was muddy and needed several bags of drying compound before it was ready for play.
Sergio Santos struck out Aramis Ramirez with two on to end the eighth and then pitched the ninth for his 13th save in 15 chances, fanning Pena to end it.
“I like that they have confidence that I can come in in the eighth and then finish the job,” Santos said.
Before the storm, Reed Johnson and Starlin Castro had consecutive singles off Mark Buehrle, who then struck out Jeff Baker before play was halted.
Jesse Crain (3-2) relieved Buehrle after the delay and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Ramirez, tying the game at 2-2. Buehrle, who was shooting for his major league-best 25th interleague win, gave up five hits and was charged with the two runs in 5 1-3 innings.
“Obviously I wanted to go deeper into the game but the weather didn’t allow it,” he said.
Konerko’s 21st homer leading off the bottom of the second opened the scoring against Cubs starter Matt Garza, who gave up four hits and two runs in his five innings before the delay.
“We were looking at that (incoming weather) from the start. It was ‘How long would it let me keep playing?’ It’s one of those things,” Garza said.
“I had good stuff tonight, I’m not gonna lie. I know I had good stuff tonight. I was just challenging guys,” he said. “… I looked up in the bottom of the fifth. I walked out and I only had 70-some pitches and I was like ‘Oh, yes! I’m gonna go deep!’, and then the rain came. One of those nights where you wish it was just clear skies and ready to go.”
Jeff Samardzija (5-3) came on to pitch in the bottom of the sixth. He gave up a leadoff double to Alexei Ramirez in the seventh before Cubs second baseman DJ LaMahieu made a nice stop behind the bag on A.J. Pierzynski’s grounder as Ramirez had to stop at third on the infield single.
After Alex Rios popped out, Morel delivered a sacrifice fly to center for a 3-2 lead.
Rios led off the bottom of the third with a double, stopped at third on Morel’s single and scored on Juan Pierre’s sacrifice bunt, giving the White Sox a 2-0 lead.
Carlos Pena hit his 13th homer of the season and second in as many nights to cut the Cubs’ deficit to one in the fifth.
Castro continued his stellar play at shortstop for the Cubs with two more defensive gems, including one to retire Pierzynski on a slow roller past the mound to end the fourth.
Notes: Struggling White Sox DH Adam Dunn struck out twice and went 0 for 4 as boos continued from all over U.S. Cellular Field. Dunn has whiffed 91 times in 217 at-bats this season. He entered the game batting .178. He does have 41 walks. “I should put Dunn at leadoff because he’s the one who gets on base the most, but instead of striking out four (times), he might strike out six (times),” manager Ozzie Guillen said. … Guillen was asked about 22-year-old Dayan Viciedo, who is batting .328 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs at Triple-A Charlotte. But the White Sox want the young Cuban star, who is playing the outfield, to be in the lineup every day and not sit on the bench or platoon. … The game drew a less-than-capacity crowd (35,155) for the second straight night. Monday night’s opener drew 36,005. … The White Sox optioned right-handed pitcher Lucas Harrell to Triple-A Charlotte after the game, a move that will allow them to activate Jake Peavy from the DL to start Wednesday’s game. Harrell was 0-0 with a 7.20 ERA in three relief appearances over two stints with the White Sox this season.
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