CHICAGO - Kevin Youkilis put on the offensive show with a grand slam, and after a shaky first inning, Francisco Liriano put on a pitching clinic over the next five innings as the Chicago White Sox took their second straight game of the series against the visiting New York Yankees on Tuesday, 7-3 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Still, there was some disappointment that must have Major League Baseball officials scratching their heads: How can two divisional leaders, particularly longtime rivals such as the White Sox and Yankees, draw a crowd of just 24,247, more than 3,000 less than Monday night's crowd?
With the chance for a White Sox sweep on Wednesday, will the crowd be bigger?
Regardless, if you are a White Sox fan, there was great consolation in watching as your team improved to 67-55, while the Yankees fell to 72-51.
The Yankees - or more specifically, Derek Jeter - wasted little time getting started in Tuesday's game. Jeter, who had four hits in Monday's series opener, including a home run and double, hit the first pitch of the game off White Sox starter Liriano into the left field stands. It was Jeter's 12th home run of the season.
Liriano's start mirrored that of Monday's starter for the White Sox, Gavin Floyd, who struggled right from the first pitch and didn't even make it past the third inning. After Jeter's solo blast, Liriano loaded the bases with a single by Nick Swisher and back-to-back walks to Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones.
Curtis Granderson hit into a fielder's choice that scored Swisher, but forced Jones at second, making it a 2-0 Yankees lead.
But unlike Floyd's outing, Liriano settled down and became a very effective pitcher from that point through the sixth inning, scattering four hits and a walk, while also striking out five. He left after the sixth, giving way to reliever Jesse Crain. Still, Liriano wound up with the win, boosting his otherwise dismal 2012 record to 5-12.
The Yanks' only semi-threat occurred in the third inning when Teixeira walked and Jones singled to center, but Granderson grounded out to first base to end the potential rally.
The White Sox got on the board in the bottom of the second when Alex Rios tripled into the right-center field gap, followed by a run-scoring sacrifice fly by A.J. Pierzynski. Of defensive note on that play, Yankees left fielder Jones made an outstanding on-target throw to the plate, but the sliding Rios managed to beat the tag by a split-second.
Chicago tied the score 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth when Paul Konerko smashed a one-out home run, just barely clearing the left field wall.
The White Sox went ahead 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth. Alexei Ramirez doubled to center, Gordon Beckham walked and then leadoff hitter Dewayne Wise singled to short right field, loading the bases for Youkilis.
It didn't take the former Boston Red Sox star long to find a pitch to his liking, slamming a 1-0 fastball from losing Yankees starter Ivan Nova (11-7) into the right field bullpen, making it a 6-2 Chicago advantage. It was Youkilis' 15th home run of the season and his third career major league grand slam, the most recent coming earlier this year, also at U.S. Cellular Field, before he was traded from the Red Sox to Chicago.
The Yankees closed the score to 6-3 in the top of the seventh when Russell Martin led off the inning against new White Sox reliever Crain with his 14th home run into the left field stands.
Chicago threatened again in the bottom of the seventh against reliever Derek Lowe. Beckham led off with a single to center, Wise followed with a single to left and then Lowe intentionally walked Dunn to load the bases. Konerko struck out swinging for the second out, and then Lowe got Rios to ground out to second to strand all three runners.
But the White Sox finally got some of the insurance they were looking for in the previous inning in the bottom of the eighth. Pierzynski tripled into the right-center field gap, and two outs later, Beckham waited Lowe out until he finally got the pitch he was looking for, lofting a bloop single to short right that scored Pierzynski.
Wise followed with his fourth single of the game - a career high - pushing Beckham to second, but Youkilis hit into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
NOTES: If the Yankees have looked somewhat tired the last two nights in Chicago, there's a pretty good reason: Wednesday will be the 20th straight game the Yankees have played without a day off, which finally comes Thursday before they resume their current road trip at Cleveland on Friday, with a three-game set against the Indians. Even though they return to New York after that, the Yanks will play 16 of their next 22 games (starting with Monday night's game at Chicago) away from Yankee Stadium. ... Wednesday's series rotation will match Yankee righty Phil Hughes (12-10) against White Sox southpaw Chris Sale (14-4).