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Sox use home field to beat Hernandez

CHICAGO -- The White Sox returned home Monday not only to unpack their suitcases, but to unload their baggage.

A 10-game road trip didn’t quite go as planned, but the comforts of home were enough to help send Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez ducking for cover in a 6-1 White Sox victory.

Hernandez’s four runs allowed over seven innings might not sound like much of a beat down, but considering the White Sox hadn’t scored against the right-hander in 23 consecutive innings before the game started, it sure felt like a laugher.

Hernandez’s streak was actually extended to 25 innings when Juan Pierre and Omar Vizquel delivered back-to-back RBI singles to erase an early 1-0 Mariners lead. John Danks took over from there giving up his lone run on six hits over eight innings with one walk.

Hernandez not only gave up nine hits but he walked three batters. It was the first time since June 8 at Texas that the annual Cy Young candidate gave up more than three runs in an outing.

"You have to limit (runs) for sure,” Danks said about facing Hernandez. “He's going to be pretty good. This was probably one of the worst games he's had all year and he was still pretty darn good. So, we knew we had to pitch well and like I said fortunately we were able to do that.”

The conditions at, and dimensions of U.S. Cellular Field might be equal for both teams on a given night, but the White Sox have learned how to use them well. In the sixth inning, with the game still in doubt, Paul Konerko yanked a home run down the left-field line, A.J. Pierzynski hit a ground-rule double to right and Alexei Ramirez hit an RBI double to center.

"This is a very, very good ballpark to hit,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “You could see Felix when (Konerko) hit the home run, we’re not in Safeco Field. He was very surprised when the ball left the ballpark and how far it went.”

Konerko has put on a clinic this season on how to utilize the team’s home ballpark. He not only is batting .340 at home this year, 16 of his 22 home runs have come while wearing his white pinstripes.

The victory could not have come at a better time as the White Sox not only reversed the trend of a 4-6 road trip, but they maintained their spot alone atop the American League Central. A loss would have dropped the White Sox into a tie for first place with the Twins, who rolled over the Royals.

Even with the fading Detroit Tigers getting no-hit at Tampa Bay on Monday, the expectation continues to be that the A.L. Central race will go down to the wire. The White Sox could have an advantage since 34 of their last 63 games are at home. They are 28-19 at U.S. Cellular Field this season.

“From the outside looking in for all those years it always seemed like the [AL Central champion] played 163 games a couple time here,” Pierre said. “I don’t expect any difference. It’s going to be a dogfight but if we take care of our business, we’ll be there at the end. We don’t right now have to rely on this and that. If we go out and win games then we’ll be fine.”

Pierzynski’s strategy for the season is starting to come together.

“We said from Day 1 of spring training this is going to come down to the last week between some teams,” Pierzynski said. “We just hope we are one of them. Right now, we are in the mix and that’s all you can ask for. If we keep playing [well], it will all work out in the end. All you can ask for as a player and as an organization is to play meaningful games in September. That’s our goal and where we are at.”

By the numbers

8: Consecutive home victories for the White Sox, their longest home win streak since a nine-game run June 17-July 2, 2008. The White Sox have also won 15 of their last 16 home games. In their last 22 home games, the White Sox have hit 38 home runs.

Quote

“It's always nice to get runs, but when you score runs off Felix Hernandez, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, it's nice. I can't imagine trying to hit some of the stuff he was throwing. These guys did a good job. We have 100 percent confidence in these guys.” -- Danks, on whether or not he thought getting to Hernandez would quiet the talk that the White Sox need a hitter at the trade deadline.

Look ahead

Gavin Floyd, and his rapidly descending ERA, will get the call for the White Sox in Tuesday’s game against the Mariners. Floyd (5-8, 3.87) might look like much record-wise, but his 1.16 ERA since June 8 is the lowest in the American League over that span and second lowest to the Marlins’ Josh Johnson (0.94). In a start against the Mariners last week Floyd pitched seven scoreless innings but had a no-decision. Floyd will be opposed by the Mariners’ Ryan Rowland-Smith (1-9, 6.27), who is tied for third in the Al in home runs allowed (20) and won his only game June 20 against the Reds to snap a six-game losing streak.