White Sox’ bats erupt again as Paul Konerko raises average to .396
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org May 26, 2012 11:06PM
Paul Konerko (sliding safely into home in the third) went 4-for-4 on Saturday with three doubles, three runs scored and two RBI. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: July 3, 2012 11:28AM
Memorial Day is no time to be looking at the baseball standings, at least not to White Sox manager Robin Ventura.
“Even at the All-Star break, there are teams that have a good first half that might not come out of it with the same feeling they have in the first half,’’ he said.
Another slugfest Saturday led to a 14-7 victory by the Sox over the Cleveland Indians and shrunk the Indians’ American League Central lead to 1 1/2 games. No team in the majors is hotter than the Sox, who have won eight of their last nine and 12 of their last 17.
And no hitter is hotter than team captain Paul Konerko.
“It’s impressive, that’s all I can say,’’ said Alex Rios, who had his own impressive day, going 3-for-5 with a home run (fourth) and three RBI after being robbed of another first-inning homer by center fielder Michael Brantley’s above-the-wall catch. “Everyone can feed off what he’s doing. He’s getting on base, and people behind him can drive him in.’’
Konerko has been torrid in the last 12 games, hitting .571 (24-42) with four doubles — three of them Saturday — four home runs, 16 runs scored and 11 RBI.
His 4-for-4 game with a walk raised his average to .396, and he passed the New York Mets’ David Wright (.390) for tops in baseball.
“I’d give him four [balls] and send him on,’’ said Sox pitcher Jake Peavy (6-1), who benefitted from the season-high scoring and hit total (17) against a potent Indians lineup. “I’ve played with Adrian Gonzalez, and he’s had some unbelievable streaks, but Paulie’s doing a mighty fine job.
“What I love about him is his consistency. He’s probably worried about his first at-bat tomorrow, I promise you.’’
While the Sox are chasing the division title, Konerko, 36, may well be chasing the most coveted of baseball’s individual titles in his 15th major-league season. But he is the first to put that talk aside.
“I’m sure during the course of a season somewhere the results may have been close, or you got more hits or more homers. You’d have to check,’’ he said of his streak. “I feel just as competitive [as ever.] You don’t have it every day, but I feel I’m doing a pretty good job of looking at the next pitch, one pitch at a time and then I’m moving on. If it’s a bad swing or you take a strike, whatever it is, I try to focus on the next pitch and be on it. That’s it.
“The results will change. That’s baseball. But all you try to do is control what you control up there and ride out the good wave you have.
“But the good news is everyone is chipping in and swinging well.’’
The supporting cast includes Rios, whose average has climbed to .281; catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who had another 2-for-5 game with an RBI to reach .312 overall; and Dayan Viciedo, whose five RBI game included his third homer in as many games. He is hitting .422 (19-for-45) with seven homers and 18 RBI in the last 12 games.
“There were guys having good swings and it’s just one of those days,’’ Ventura said. “It was warm and that was conducive to hitting—but it’s not just that it’s warm. Guys are ‘on’ and eager and greedy [to hit.]’’
None is more ‘on’ than Konerko, who recorded his first four-hit game since Aug. 16.
“The only guy I can think of [to compare] was Edgar Martinez the way he’s swinging the bat,’’ Ventura said. “He’s going the other way, pulling the ball, hitting for power — he’s as consistent as anyone.’’