After learning that Kansas City had rallied to beat Cleveland, Buehrle and Konerko took care of their own work Sunday.
“There are good vibes right now. We’ve kind of turned it around a little bit,” Konerko said. “We know it’s in the driver’s seat and it’s there for the taking as long as we just do our job. We don’t have to really look at the scoreboard, but it’s always nice if you get some help. But we know we can do it on our own, as well.”
Ahead in the AL Central by 15 games on Aug. 1, the White Sox reduced their magic number to five—thanks to their victory and the Royals’ ninth-inning win over second-place Cleveland.
In the top of the third, as the Royals’ 5-4 victory over the Indians was posted on the scoreboard, the crowd broke into a loud ovation.
“When they started cheering I kind of knew what it was for,” Buehrle said.
Buehrle got his own cheers when he retired Matthew LeCroy in the ninth for the final out. His performance followed three strong starting efforts by Brandon McCarthy (a no-decision in a loss), Jose Contreras and Freddy Garcia as the White Sox ran their winning streak to three games.
“When you are in second place, it’s a different way. When you are in first, you can take care of yourself before somebody else does it,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen. “Once the reaction went down, you saw the three runs come up right away. It was a great feeling.”
Before a spirited crowd of 30,402 in their last regular-season home game— both the crosstown Cubs and Bears were home on the same day—the White Sox waited out a rain delay to get their 94th victory.
Buehrle (16-8) is just 6-5 since the All-Star break, but he retired his first nine batters before Jason Tyner singled leading off the fourth. The left-hander struck out six and walked none.
Pumping his fist as he rounded first, Konerko gave the White Sox a 4-0 lead with a two-run shot in the third inning, his 38th homer and first since Sept 9. It followed an RBI triple by Aaron Rowand and came shortly after the Sox learned of Cleveland’s tough loss.
Now the White Sox have seven games to play—four in Detroit and then a three-game showdown at Jacobs Field. With a double-digit lead so late, Chicago never figured to be in this position with a week remaining, having to win every game. But the Indians have won 17 of 20 to keep the pressure on. Chicago had lost 10 of 14 before starting this modest three-game winning streak and is now 25-26 since Aug. 1.
“There’s no question there’s disappointment that it’s gotten to the point it’s got to,” Konerko said.
“But I think we’ve done a pretty good job in the last few days of realizing, OK you know, it is a race. Let’s not try and be in denial about it. This is a race, it’s tightened up so now let’s play ball. … I wish we could’ve clinched earlier, I wish we could’ve clinched on this homestand, for the fans and all. But we just didn’t do it.”
“We won one game here. We didn’t quit, we didn’t lay down,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We just didn’t play great baseball here. The guys are trying. You’re facing a team that’s hungry.”
Liriano went six innings, allowing five hits and four runs with three walks and eight strikeouts.
The start was delayed 69 minutes by rain. … Buehrle is 15-9 in his career against the Twins, including 2-2 this season. The 15 victories are his most against any opponent. He has three complete games this season—his last came on June 17—and 18 in his career. … The Twins have grounded into a double play in 16 straight games. … The White Sox drew 2,343,833, the fourth-largest season attendance in franchise history and the biggest since 1993. … Tyner has an 11-game hitting streak. … Chicago took the season series 11-7, its first winning season against the Twins since 2000.