Dueling hitters carrying White Sox

CHICAGO -- There is a battle being waged within the Chicago White Sox's inner circle and nobody associated with the team wants to see it end any time soon.

Cuba natives Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu keep raising the bar on each other -- and if things continues at this rate, it could be one of the better hit-making duos in some time.

Ramirez followed his four-hit night Thursday with a grand slam and a triple Friday. Not to be outdone, Abreu had three hits, including a mammoth 442-foot home run, all on a bad left ankle.

When the dust had settled, the White Sox walked away with a 9-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, who became the newest team to get an up-close view at the might being displayed on the South Side this season.

The White Sox are bound to erupt at a moment’s notice and that’s what happened Friday. Arizona pitcher Brandon McCarthy was perfect through three innings, but the White Sox sucker-punched him when they delivered nine hits in a stretch of 10 batters to start the fourth.

Ramirez had his grand slam during that string, the third for a White Sox hitter this season and the sixth of his career. But it was the entire team that put on a brilliant display on fireworks night.

“It was great,” bench coach Mark Parent said. “I was sitting next to [trainer] Brian Ball and he said, ‘I can’t leave. We are getting hits.’ Everybody was happy and the guy who is always the most happy these days is Abreu and he’s cheerleading all the time. Even a guy like Adam Dunn, who didn’t have his best night at the plate, everybody was happy. It was good.”

Abreu insisted on playing despite a severe limp. He said it only affected him a little bit, but what really seemed to bother him was Ramirez showing him up on offense.

Abreu teed off for his own home run in the seventh inning, lifting his blast into the first row of hedges above the center field wall, an area reserved for mashers like Dunn, Jim Thome or Miguel Cabrera.

“It’s fun watching them, and then you get up there and you don’t want to be that guy [that doesn’t deliver],” said Tyler Flowers, who was inspired enough to hit a home run of his own in the eighth.

Ramirez became only the seventh player in franchise history to hit safely in 32 of the team’s first 37 games. He opened the season on a franchise-record 17-game hitting streak and, after his first back-to-back games without a hit last weekend at Cleveland, he is at it again, collecting six hits the past two nights.

“The only time I can think of being this hot for so long is when I was playing in Cuba,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. "But you know what? Today is over and now we’ve got to look forward to the next days coming up.”

Abreu was expected to be reduced to designated-hitter duties again Saturday because of his sore ankle, but there wasn’t any expectation that his production might decline.

“They used to tell me that good hitters slide on their front foot and he has proven that right,” said Parent, who took over postgame interview duties for manager Robin Ventura, who left to attend his daughter’s college graduation. “The guy, even in batting practice, we’ve cut down his early work to get him off [the ankle]. He tries to do too much sometimes during early work and it doesn’t give anything a chance to heal. We are cutting down on that and with him being at first base. That will help him stay off it.”

If he wants to keep pace with Ramirez, he better not stay off the ankle for long. And if Ramirez is going to do things like drive 3-0 pitches into the seats, he’s going to be hard to match. The grand slam was the first time Ramirez has delivered a hit on a 3-0 pitch in his career.

“I was looking for a good pitch that I can connect, something that was over the plate,” Ramirez said. “And that’s what I did and I was able to hit it.”