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Blasts from past help ease the pain
OK, so it was only against the Mariners, the first American League team officially eliminated from the postseason.
But the rare big-bang bonanza Saturday, appropriately on Fireworks Night, brought back memories of what could have been.
With the White Sox hitting five home runs and U.S. Cellular Field abuzz in an 8-7 victory over Seattle, it was a reminder of better times not so long ago when the Sox were 10 games over .500, not right at it, and were hitting homers at a record pace.
The date was July 24, and the Sox had just reached their best mark of 10 over and had jumped into first place. But they also had just learned they would lose Magglio Ordonez for the season, just days after learning Frank Thomas was gone, toothe very heart of their power lineup devastated.
With Ordonez playing, their record was 30-20. With Thomas, it was 39-20. Without them, it is 45-52.
If the Sox were still 10 games over .500, they would be 41/2 games out of first. As it is, their magic number for wild-card elimination is 16. It's 19 for the AL Central race.
During the homer-happy days of Ordonez and Thomas, the Sox were averaging 5.5 runs a game.
It was a good thing they rediscovered the power plug Saturday. They needed every one of their homers, including two by Paul Konerko and the first for Willie Harris in more than two years. Carlos Lee and Timo Perez, whose throw to third base cut down Bret Boone and ended the game, also hit solo shots.
Konerko, the main power hitter in the absence of Thomas and Ordonez, has a career-high 34 homers and has passed Bill Melton for sixth on the all-time Sox list with 156.
"He has been great for us," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I never thought he would have that kind of year. He has carried the team."
The beneficiary of the big bats was Mark Buehrle (13-8), who allowed three runs in seven innings.
"He's special," Guillen said. "He gives you everything he has. He's a warrior, fun, a perfect kid to have in the clubhouse."
Despite the victory, Buehrle gave up four hits to Ichiro Suzuki in his quest to become the all-time hits leader for a season. Buehrle also allowed the aging Edgar Martinez to steal his first base in two years.
Suzuki ended a 5-for-5 night with a ninth-inning single off Jeff Bajenaru, making his major-league debut. Suzuki also scored one of three Seattle runs in the ninth before Shingo Takatsu got the save.
"I threw the ball over his head, inside, outside, I threw an eephus, I tried everything and I couldn't get him out," Buehrle said of Suzuki. "The balls were barely getting out of the infield, and he had five hits."
The Sox used the opposite tack, getting them out of the outfield just like they used to with regularity.