While the Chicago White Sox might normally like their chances of increasing their AL Central lead with the Seattle Mariners coming to town, they could have their hands full this weekend against the hottest team in baseball.
Chicago tries to continue its recent domination in this series Friday night in the first of three versus a Seattle club hoping to win nine straight for the first time in nine seasons.
The White Sox (68-55) have had their way with the Mariners (61-64) of late, outscoring them 136-68 while going 21-4 since the start of 2010. Chicago has taken five of six meetings this season, including two of three at U.S. Cellular Field when the teams last played June 1-3.
Seattle, though, has picked up the pace considerably since the All-Star break, going 25-13 to post one of the majors' best records over that stretch.
The Mariners concluded a nine-game homestand with their eighth consecutive win Wednesday, beating Cleveland 3-1 thanks largely to Eric Thames ' tiebreaking two-run double with two outs in the eighth inning.
"It only takes one swing, one play to be a hero," manager Eric Wedge said. "Everybody is doing their part, it's not just the same guy or same group of guys; we've got everybody contributing."
Though Seattle, which last won nine straight May 27-June 5, 2003, has had plenty to celebrate recently, much of its success has come at home. The Mariners have won 15 of 16 at Safeco Field but could have a hard time keeping things going on the South Side of Chicago, where they've dropped 16 of 19 dating to 2008.
After getting swept at Kansas City last weekend, the White Sox returned home to take all three matchups against the New York Yankees . Chris Sale struck out 13 and Alex Rios hit his 20th homer as Chicago won Wednesday's series finale 2-1.
"Winning those first two games and having a chance to sweep after getting swept in Kansas City goes to show what kind of guys we have in here," Sale told the White Sox's official website. "Every game is big from here on out - no games from here on out where we can take a night off. It's go time now."
Chicago now gives the ball to Jake Peavy (9-9, 3.11 ERA), who wasn't very sharp Saturday in a 9-4 loss to the Royals. The right-hander yielded five runs - three earned - and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings.
"It was ugly," he said. "... I felt awfully good tonight. When you feel that good and give up that many runs it's really frustrating."
Peavy, though, has posted a 2.18 ERA over his last six home starts, and he's 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA over eight career matchups versus Seattle. He allowed two runs and three hits over 6 1-3 innings June 1, although he didn't factor in the decision in Chicago's 7-4 victory.
The Mariners counter with Jason Vargas (13-8, 3.53). The left-hander is 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA in his last 10 starts, giving up three runs or fewer in each of those outings.
He scattered eight hits over 6 2-3 innings of two-run ball during Saturday's 3-2, walk-off win over Minnesota.
"I thought he pitched a real good ballgame," Wedge told the Mariners' official website. "Not as sharp as we've seen him, but what's separated for Jason now is when he's not exactly locked in - again, I still felt like he threw a real good ballgame - he's still able to get people out and make pitches."
Vargas has compiled a 7.13 ERA in going 0-1 over four career starts versus Chicago. In his last appearance in this series, he was tagged for nine runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings during a 9-3 loss Aug. 28, 2011.
|August 13, 2012||Mike Carp||Day-to-Day||Hip injury|
|August 13, 2012||Mike Carp||15-Day DL||Strained left groin muscle|
|August 06, 2012||Brendan Ryan||Day-to-Day||Left elbow contusion|
|July 18, 2012||Charlie Furbush||15-Day DL||Strained left triceps|
|July 18, 2012||Charlie Furbush||15-Day DL||Strained left triceps|
|July 01, 2012||Erasmo Ramirez||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|Chicago White Sox|
|August 19, 2012||Kevin Youkilis||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 18, 2012||Alejandro De Aza||15-Day DL||Bruised left ribcage|
|August 16, 2012||Orlando Hudson||15-Day DL||Left foot contusion|
|August 14, 2012||Leyson Septimo||15-Day DL||Left biceps inflammation|
|August 12, 2012||Kevin Youkilis||Day-to-Day||Sore left forearm|
|August 08, 2012||Paul Konerko||7-Day DL||Mild concussion|
CHICAGO (AP) -- Stunned by a monumental bullpen collapse, the Chicago White Sox showed their resolve and validated their position atop the AL Central.
Paul Konerko 's single with one out in the bottom of the ninth - his third hit of the game - gave Chicago a dramatic 9-8 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
The Chicago bullpen imploded and allowed six runs in the top of the ninth before the White Sox rallied for two runs in the bottom half to snap Seattle's eight-game winning streak.
"From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in about a two-minute span," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "It was fun. Obviously it was a huge win, not only for the way that it happened because of everything that's going on with the pennant race and everything. It's a huge team win.
"We feel bad because of the way we blew it, but you feel great because of the way we won it."
Kevin Youkilis singled to drive in the tying run off Tom Wilhelmsen (4-3), and Konerko lined a gapper to the opposite field. Outfielders Michael Saunders and Eric Thames collided as the ball popped out of Thames' glove and Dewayne Wise crossed the plate.
"I had a pretty good beat on it," Thames said. "I looked up and I saw (Saunders) running and I went for it and I caught it, but my elbow hit him and it was a pretty bad collision. I caught it, spun around and the ball (went flying)."
Addison Reed (3-1) earned the win despite blowing his fourth save.
Adam Dunn hit two home runs to increase his major league-leading total to 38 and Alexei Ramirez homered and drove in three runs for the White Sox.
"It's a nice win to a horrible loss to a good win again," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It's just good for the guys to go out there and battle back when it looks bleak."
Trayvon Robinson and Jesus Montero homered for Seattle.
Jake Peavy pitched seven strong innings as Chicago extended their lead in the AL Central to 2 1-2 games with Detroit losing to Los Angeles.
Montero homered off Phil Humber leading off the ninth. After a one-out walk, he was relieved by Donnie Veal , who allowed a double to Robinson.
Reed entered with two on and one out and walked Brendan Ryan to load the bases. Dustin Ackley hit a two-run single, Kyle Seager hit a sacrifice fly and John Jaso had the big blow with a single over second baseman Gordon Beckham 's head to tie the game.
Saunders scored on an errant throw by right fielder Alex Rios to give Seattle the 8-7 lead.
Chicago surrendered a lead of five runs or more in the ninth inning or later for the first time since May 28, 1998 at Detroit, according to White Sox media relations.
Ramirez added a two-run homer for Chicago, which won its fourth straight following a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees .
Seattle has lost 22 of its last 26 games against the White Sox, spanning the last three seasons.
"It was a great comeback by our guys, that's what I'm thinking about right now," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "It was an emotional last inning. Obviously went back and forth, but to come back down five runs down and score six against a good team like we're playing, it says a lot about our guys and how far they've come."
Seattle lost for just the second time in 12 games.
Dunn hit a solo homer in the first inning and a two-run shot in the third off Seattle southpaw Jason Vargas .
It was Dunn's third multihomer run game this season and the 33rd of his career.
Ramirez went deep in the fourth inning to give the White Sox a 6-2 lead.
He also had a two-out RBI single in second. Ramirez is hitting .389 with two outs and a runner on third this season.
Peavy had received fewer than three runs' support per game over his last 12 starts, but the 31-year-old enjoyed the rare offense as he recovered from a bumpy start to continue his own dominance of the Mariners.
Ackley jumped on Peavy immediately with a first-pitch double leading off the game and came around to score on Saunders' RBI single.
Robinson hit a two-out, solo home run in the second inning. The dead-center field shot was his first of the season, but Peavy put up zeros the next five frames to send the Mariners to just their second loss in 12 contests.
Robinson and Ackley had three hits apiece and Ackley drove in two runs.
Peavy was charged with two runs and seven hits over seven innings. He is 5-1 with a 2.25 ERA in nine career starts against Seattle.
Vargas lasted just four innings, his shortest outing of the season. He allowed six runs and seven hits - including three home runs.
Vargas was 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA over his previous 10 starts before running into the homer-happy Chicago bats, which have hit a league-best 41 homers in the month of August.
Notes: White Sox OF Alejandro De Aza (oblique) resumed baseball activities Friday. Ventura said he anticipates a rehab assignment before the 28-year-old is activated. ... Mariners OF Franklin Gutierrez (concussion) served as the DH in a Triple-A rehab game with Tacoma. He is expected to play in the field on Saturday. ... RHP Blake Beavan (8-7, 5.00 ERA) will start Saturday for the Mariners against White Sox LHP Jose Quintana (5-2, 2.76).