The last ingredient of the White Sox's master plan finally arrived Wednesday, allowing the Sox to depart McAfee Coliseum with a satisfying feeling they hadn't experienced since 2000.
"I heard we're getting rings," Paul Konerko quipped after the Sox broke out of a slump in the final two innings to seize a 6-3 victory over the A's and take their first series in Oakland since 2000.
The transformation was so sudden that Mark Buehrle's performance was nearly lost in the celebration.
The left-hander recovered from a three-run first to retire 20 of the last 22 batters he faced and didn't show any ill effects from a bruised left forearm he suffered in his last start.
That's because the Sox's offense, which ranked 13th in the American League entering Wednesday's game, produced against All-Star relievers Justin Duchscherer and Huston Street after being limited to two runs in their previous 16 innings against unheralded Chad Gaudin and Joe Kennedy.
"I think it's nice to win a series here for the first time since Billy Pierce played for the White Sox," manager Ozzie Guillen deadpanned. "It's a good feeling because a lot of guys who are struggling right now contributed. [Center fielder] Brian Anderson made a great play to save one run.
"Everybody pitched in, and they played the way they should be playing."
Sox pitchers have carried the load, posting a 2.01 ERA while allowing only 12 runs on 34 hits in their last six games.
They are 4-2 during that span despite an offense that hadn't received substantial production from Jermaine Dye or Konerko.
But that changed in the eighth when Dye hit his first homer of the season, a two-run shot off Duchscherer that tied the game 3-3.
Dye's 2-for-5 performance snapped a 2-for-20 rut. Konerko's two-run double off Street gave the Sox insurance and capped a two-hit game after he had gone 3-for-20.
Their hitting helped supplement the production of No. 8 hitter Juan Uribe, who hit an RBI single in the first and ignited the ninth-inning rally with a single off Street to raise his batting average to .320.
"We know we're a good offense," Guillen said. "We did it in the past and there are a lot of professional hitters on this ballclub. It's just a matter of time. We've been facing pretty good pitching staffs too. Don't get me wrong. Cleveland and Minnesota and then here.
"Everything is about confidence when you hit. All of a sudden you struggle, hit a couple of balls good and they caught it, and you lose your confidence.
"Konerko struggled all day and all of a sudden he got a big hit for us. That's the way you come out of a slump."
If the Sox had mustered enough offense Tuesday, when they were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, they could have achieved their first three-game sweep in Oakland since May 16-18, 1997Guillen's last season as a player with the Sox.
But the late contributions of Dye and Konerko were enough to give the Sox a positive vibe.
"Finally," Buehrle smiled. "I've been getting on Jermaine pretty much. But he told me before the game he always picks me up, which he kind of does. When he [played for Oakland], he always hurt me. On my team, he always seems to pick me up."
Dye, who is 9-for-23 with four homers lifetime against Buehrle, was amused.
"I always tell him I own him and stuff like that," Dye said. "When he pitches, you like to do good for a guy like him. He's a good guy, a good pitcher. It just seems to work out that time and time again I seem to do something good while he's pitching."
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