CHICAGO – Besides Mark Buehrle, there might not be another White Sox player who has socked it to the Twins in recent years more than Paul Konerko.
And it just so happened that, on Saturday, Chicago retired Konerko’s No. 14 before the game against the Twins. So there was Konerko speaking at home plate, staring at the entire Twins team that decided to be on the field for the ceremony.
“I appreciate you guys for being down here,” said Konerko, whose 50 home runs against the Twins are his most against any opponent. “That’s pretty cool on your part.”
The Twins probably just wanted proof Konerko was really retired and not coming back to torment them some more.
With their mind clear of that threat, the Twins went out and put a damper on Paulie’s big day by beating the White Sox 4-3. Torii Hunter and Eduardo Nunez hit solo home runs, and Trevor May pulverized the strike zone throughout the afternoon.
May actually won the duel against White Sox ace Chris Sale, who gave up nine runs to the Twins on April 30 at Target Field. May started the game with a run of first-pitch strikes to 11 of the first 12 batters he faced. In fact, when he finally threw a first-pitch ball, it hit Chicago’s Carlos Sanchez with two outs in the third. So he still struck something.
“It was a variety of pitches he was using to get ahead,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I just think he’s real comfortable throwing his curveball and his changeup. And one of the best things pitchers can do is get ahead.”
White Sox hitters were swinging early in the count, as May established his strike-throwing. He ended up throwing first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 batters and used that to his advantage. He never threw more than 13 pitches in an inning, and he needed just six pitches to get three outs in the fourth.
“That’s important, especially later when I started to mix better and use my offspeed stuff and it made the fastball a little better,” he said. “Being able to throw the offspeed early for strikes and put that in the back of their minds was a big thing, and from there on we just stuck with that.”
While his pitch count was down, things weren’t perfect. When Hunter and Nunez hit homers in the second inning, May gave up a run in the bottom of the inning. When the Twins got two more runs in third, May gave those right back in the bottom of the inning.
May started losing good command with his fastball. Molitor actually had the bullpen up in the fifth — right after May passed the 60-pitch mark. He finally went to the bullpen in the eighth. In seven innings, May gave up three runs on six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts. He threw just 80 pitches.
“My bullpen was pretty fresh,” Molitor said. “I was tempted to leave him out there because his pitch count was down. Sometimes you want to get that guy out on a good note. We had a couple innings when we scored and he gave those right back.”
It almost blew up right away, as Adam Eaton drove an Aaron Thompson pitch to the right-center gap to start the eighth. Aaron Hicks, however, sprinted back and laid out to make a stunning catch. Closer Glen Perkins put two men on in the ninth but struck out Tyler Flowers looking for his major league-leading 16th save, in as many attempts.
And that’s how you spoil Konerko’s retirement party.
“The Twins, just like everyone around here in Chicago, salute him on his career,” Molitor said. “And the game is the game. We were able separate the pregame emotion from playing a good opponent.”