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Sox's Konerko conked in head, then belts pair of homers
Paul Konerko would be the first to admit he has a pretty hard head.
But not even Konerko could have imagined a curveball bounced off his noggin could change the complexion of a ballgame, if not a season.After Cubs starter Kerry Wood hit him in the helmet, Konerko bounced back to hit two home runs and lead the White Sox from an eight-run deficit to a stunning 13-9 victory Friday before 46,027 at Comiskey Park.
Konerko enjoyed his second straight four-hit game and his fourth multihomer game since June 11. Though he had a bump on his head the size of a walnut after ducking into a Wood pitch in the fourth, Konerko wouldn't come out.
"He's the type of guy that this type of stage he thrives on," manager Jerry Manuel said.
The Sox trailed 8-2 in the fifth when Konkero cranked a two-run homer off Wood to make it an 8-4 game. In the sixth he reached Joe Borowski for a two-run blast to give the Sox a 10-8 lead.
The Sox were numb--comfortably--after their most impressive triumph to date.
"Everyone is to the point where you're just sick of being average," Konerko said. "For the last year and a half we've been mediocre. It's the same guys, and we're tired of it."
Matt Ginter earned the victory with 3 1/3 innings of hitless relief.
The Cubs coughed one up for the second time in 24 hours, blowing their biggest lead since April 17, 1976, at Wrigley Field, when Philadelphia's Mike Schmidt hit four homers to help turn a 12-1 deficit into an 18-16 victory.
The Cubs entered with a National League-worst .239 batting average, threatening to break the franchise low of .238 set in 1963 and tied in '65. But they managed to find their strokes against right-hander Dan Wright and put the Sox in an early 8-0 hole.
Wright has a tendency to give up big innings, and this time it occurred in the second. After Royce Clayton booted a double-play grounder to put two men on with one out, Wright began to fall apart. He walked Alex Gonzalez to load the bases and gave up a two-run double to Bill Mueller that Magglio Ordonez misjudged in right.
After a visit from pitching coach Nardi Contreras, Wright gave up a run-scoring single to Joe Girardi and a 400-foot, three-run homer to Corey Patterson, making it 6-0. When the Cubs added two more two-out runs off Wright in the third on Gonzalez's homer and Patterson's run-scoring infield hit, the booing escalated and the rout seemed to be under way.
"After those first couple of innings I didn't see any swagger," Manuel said.
With Wood on the mound with an eight-run lead, it looked like a gimme for the Cubs. The Sox hadn't overcome so much as a three-run deficit since April 21 and had yet to come back from a deficit of more than two runs.
But after cruising through the first three innings, Wood began to show signs of wildness in the fourth, hitting Konerko, walking Jose Valentin and giving up a run-scoring hit to Carlos Lee to make it 8-1. He walked two more in the Sox's three-run fifth, serving up a two-run homer to Konerko to pull the Sox to within four.
"Everyone fed on the enthusiasm," reliever Kelly Wunsch said. "Everyone felt it was coming."
Wood walked Lee on four pitches to start the sixth and manager Don Baylor yanked him after Clayton's broken-bat single. But left-hander Jeff Fassero provided no relief, walking Kenny Lofton and giving up an RBI single to Ray Durham before giving way to Borowski. Frank Thomas' sacrifice fly made it 8-6, and Ordonez followed with a bloop single, scoring two runs to tie the game 8-8.
Konerko then hit his second homer, sending the Sox into a 10-8 lead and the partisan crowd into delirium. It was Konerko's 20th home run of the year and 12th of June, improving his league-leading RBI total to 70.
The Cubs crept within a run on Roosevelt Brown's RBI single off Antonio Osuna in the seventh, but with the tying run on in the eighth, Bob Howry struck out Sammy Sosa and Wunsch fanned Fred McGriff. The Sox then put it away with a three-run eighth off Kyle Farnsworth.
The 12 walks off six Cubs pitchers opened the door for the remarkable comeback. But Patterson wouldn't blame the staff.
"You can't point fingers at the pitchers and the walks," he said. "It was a team effort."