Manuel's wisdom neglected

Tribune staff reporter

As he trotted back to the dugout after pulling Tom Gordon in the ninth inning, White Sox manager Jerry Manuel heard it again, his unofficial theme song.

A chorus of boos.

The 25,348 fans who showed up Wednesday thought they had every reason to rip Manuel for removing Bartolo Colon after he had fired eight shutout innings.

But there was one detail the fans didn't know. Colon, after feeling what he described as a "twinge" in his back in the eighth, couldn't continue.

"I've always said that if I'm the target, so be it," Manuel said. "We can make it a little scary at times, or I can, if that's what they want to believe. But that's OK."

Scary was one way to describe the Sox's 4-3 victory over the Royals, which trimmed Kansas City's lead in the American League Central to one game.

Impressive was another.

The Sox not only thrived on the long ball, they manufactured two late-inning runs that proved to be the difference.

Sandy Alomar Jr. scored in the seventh on Carlos Lee's single. But that happened only after Alomar's brother, Roberto, had advanced him to third with a groundout.

Paul Konerko crossed the plate in the eighth after a leadoff double. He took third on Jose Valentin's groundout and scored when Joe Crede broke up a double play by taking down shortstop Angel Berroa.

Berroa was shaken up after taking an elbow to the midsection from Crede.

"That shortstop has to know I'm going to come in there hard," Crede said. "I'm not just going to let them have that double-play ball. I didn't go in there spikes up. I know it was a clean, hard slide."

Berroa threw wildly to first, allowing the Sox to take a 4-0 lead.

The Royals struck back in the ninth off Gordon, who was pitching for the first time since throwing 44 pitches in Monday's loss.

Gordon gave up a titanic three-run homer to Carlos Beltran. The blast was so prodigious that right fielder Magglio Ordonez didn't turn to watch it sail over his head.

Damaso Marte retired the final two batters, freezing Desi Relaford on a 1-2 fastball to end the game.

"He must have been guessing breaking ball," said Sandy Alomar, who caught the final pitch.

The Sox built a lead in the third on back-to-back homers by Roberto Alomar and Lee. Alomar's 395-foot blast was his first since joining the Sox on July 2.

The South Side Rip Men have now homered in 18 consecutive games and gone deep 26 times in their last 10 games.

The two-run lead was plenty for Colon, who improved to 4-0 with a 1.14 ERA in his last four starts.

Colon had a no-hitter until Ken Harvey's ground-ball single in the fifth. But the 30-year-old right-hander ran into trouble in the eighth.

He gave up back-to-back singles as his back began to stiffen up. Pitching coach Don Cooper and assistant trainer Brian Ball visited Colon after he threw a breaking ball to Berroa.

Colon bent over to stretch before firing his next pitch, which Berroa rolled over for a 6-4-3 double play. Colon induced a pop-up from Dee Brown on his 99th pitch to end the inning and his day.

Manuel said that had Colon been healthy, "no doubt he would have finished the game. I asked him if he wanted it. All the guys, Sandy and Jose [Valentin], were saying that he was pushing the ball and was pretty much done.

"We couldn't take a chance of losing him for any extended period of time. We had to do what we thought was wise."

It was wise, even if the fans had no way of knowing it.

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