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Bats warm to the occasion
Like a glass of fresh, cold lemonade on a hot Texas night, Joaquin Benoit was just what the White Sox needed Monday.
The slumbering Sox offense woke up against Benoit, knocking him out in the third inning, and then kept hitting en route to a 12-6 victory over the AL West-leading Texas Rangers to stay a half-game ahead of Minnesota in the AL Central.
"It's about time," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Newly acquired Carl Everett, playing his first game since Sunday's trade with the Montreal Expos, made his presence felt with a 2-for-5 night, including a home run and two runs scored.
"Hopefully, that's just the beginning," Everett said. "That's what I'm here for, to help the team. It felt good for my first day."
Scott Schoeneweis (6-7) ended a personal five-game losing streak, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing four runs and five hits.
Schoeneweis retired the first eight Rangers batters before Gary Matthews Jr. homered in the third. By then, however, the Sox were up 7-1. Every Sox hitter reached base by the third inning as the Sox pounded out 17 hits off Benoit and four relievers.
Center fielder Aaron Rowand had four hits and lifted his average to .307.
"We had some good at-bats," Guillen said. "We were patient at the plate."
The four runs in the third inning marked the first time the Sox had scored more than three runs in an inning since June 26 against the Cubs, a span of 152 innings.
After being one of the biggest surprises early in the season, when he was 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA in his first seven starts, Schoeneweis went through a 1-6 stretch with a 6.38 ERA.
"It was as good as I've thrown the ball in the last two months," Schoeneweis said. "I'm glad to get off the schneid and be a part of a win."
Monday night was Schoeneweis' second start since coming off the disabled list, and he faced a Texas team that came into the game third in the American League in hitting and first in runs scored.
But Schoeneweis was given a two-run cushion before he threw his first pitch.
Jose Valentin and Magglio Ordonez had back-to-back singles with one out in the first. With Carlos Lee at the plate, Benoit uncorked a wild pitch. Valentin came around to score when Rangers catcher Rod Barajas threw the ball into center field. Ordonez was out trying to advance to third.
Ordonez's aggressive attempt possibly cost Lee an RBI. The left fielder proceeded to hit his 13th home run of the season and the Sox were ahead 2-0.
The White Sox extended the lead in the second inning by playing small ball. Rowand singled and was bunted over to second by Joe Crede. Sandy Alomar Jr. then singled home Rowand.
Two hits, two walks and a hit batsman in the third inning--leading to four more runs--ended the night for Benoit. The Sox scored in each of the first five innings and added two more in the eighth.
"It was nice," Schoeneweis said of the run support. "The guys did a good job and enabled me to go throw to [catcher Alomar's] glove."
Schoeneweis faced only two over the minimum for the first five innings--Matthews' home run and a double by Hank Blalock in the fifth.
In the sixth, the Rangers got to Schoeneweis. One-out singles by Eric Young and Michael Young, followed by an RBI double by Alfonso Soriano, chased the starter in favor of Mike Jackson.
The offensive explosion was quite a turnaround from the four-game series in Oakland, where the Sox managed to score only 11 runs.
"Teams go through struggles," Everett said. "You can't get down. Hitting is contagious."