CHICAGO (AP) - Paul Konerko homered twice Sunday and is off to a torrid start, yet he refuses to take any credit for the White Sox's early success.
Konerko went deep in the first and fifth innings and Gavin Floyd delivered a masterful performance on the mound as the Chicago White Sox beat the slumping Tampa Bay Rays 6-1.
Konerko has three homers and 11 RBIs through the team's first nine games. He has a 10-game hitting streak dating back to last year and has driven in a run in all but one game so far this season.
Still, the White Sox captain diverted credit to Juan Pierre, Gordon Beckham and even hitting coach Greg Walker.
``They got it going right from the get-go in Cleveland and haven't stopped yet,' Konerko said of Pierre and Beckham, the No. 1 and 2 hitters in the lineup. ``They've been getting on base, having quality at_bats and they've been tough on the other team. That makes it easier for the guys in the middle.'
Konerko wasn't feeling quite right before the game, but a few tips in the batting cage from Walker seemed to straighten things out.
``I'd been hitting some balls hard, but hooking the ball and getting around some pitches I'd normally get in the air and drive with some carry,' he said. ``(Walker) gave me something that seemed to click.'
Floyd (1-0) struck out eight, allowing just four hits and one unearned run. He retired 16 of the first 18 batters he faced. Floyd allowed a one-out double to Matt Joyce in the second, but then retired the next 12 Rays.
It was an important building block for Floyd, who allowed four runs over seven innings against Kansas City in his first start of the year.
``I felt real strong, comfortable out there,' the righty said. ``I have confidence in myself to go out there and compete. I just go out there and concentrate on the mitt.'
Floyd went 10-13 with a 4.08 ERA last year, but also went on a 12-start tear where he posted a 1.19 ERA in the middle of the season. The White Sox are hoping to see more of that version of Floyd this season.
``He's aggressive, he throws strikes, his breaking ball was working,' White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. ``He kept the ball down, that was key.'
The loss dropped the Rays to 1-8, the worst start to a season in franchise history. Tampa Bay has scored 11 runs in its eight losses, and put nine runs on the board in its only win.
Sam Fuld broke Floyd's streak with a double in the sixth, and Johnny Damon followed with a single. With runners on first and third, Floyd caught Damon trying to steal second, but his wild throw ended up in center field, allowing Fuld to score.
Dan Johnson then hit a grounder to first, which deflected off Konerko's glove. Beckham recovered and threw to Floyd, who dropped the ball while removing it from his glove.
First base umpire Doug Eddings called Johnson safe, but after Guillen came out to dispute the call, the umps convened and reversed it, prompting a visit from Rays manager Joe Maddon, who argued vehemently and was ejected by Eddings.
``I've never seen that call made before, where an umpire calls a bobble and then it's overturned from a great distance. I really did not like that, obviously,' Maddon said after the game. ``The play was overturned from over 100 feet away'
At one point during the argument, Maddon motioned as if he were throwing Eddings out of the game.
Jeff Niemann (0-2) only made it 46 pitches into his second start of the season. He allowed five runs on five hits over 2 2-3 innings. Three of the runs charged to him were earned.
The White Sox established their offense early, courtesy of two first-inning home runs. Beckham drove a 1-0 pitch off the top of the left field wall that bounced over for his second of the year, and two batters later, Konerko launched the first pitch he saw 379 feet into the left field seats.
In the second, Brent Morel knocked in Mark Teahen with an RBI double, then came around to score on Juan Pierre's single, extending the lead to 4-0.
A.J. Pierzynski chased Niemann in the third inning with an RBI single. Andy Sonnanstine came on in relief, retiring five of six batters until Konerko came to the plate in the fifth, sending a 2-1 pitch over the bullpen in left field.
Sonnanstine gave his manager something to gush about, allowing just three hits over the last 5 1-3 innings for the Rays, Konerko's long ball the lone blemish on his day.
``Sonny did a wonderful job. Really saves the rest of your bullpen going into a big series in Boston,' Maddon said. ``Magnificent job by Sonny.'
NOTES: Rays 3B Felipe Lopez was not in the lineup, a day after a confrontation with Pierzynski. Lopez maintained his innocence after hitting a ninth inning home run Saturday, flipping his bat in the direction of White Sox LHP Chris Sale. Maddon said he hopes to talk to Guillen about the incident to make sure there are no lingering issues. ``That's not who we are,' Maddon said of the bat flip. ``We don't do that here.' White Sox DH Adam Dunn (appendicitis) took batting practice Sunday and according to Guillen, should have a clear timetable for his return by Monday. Dunn had surgery on Tuesday and was originally expected to miss five games.
The Associated Press News Service
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