Konerko HR lifts White Sox over Braves

CHICAGO (AP) — Paul Konerko homered with two outs in the eighth inning Thursday, lifting the Chicago White Sox to their ninth straight victory, 2-0 over the Atlanta Braves.

Gavin Floyd, J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenks combined on a two-hitter for the White Sox, who have their longest winning streak since 2006 and have won 13 of their last 14 games. They were 9½ games behind AL Central-leading Minnesota on June 8 but are now just 2½ back.

The Braves came into the series with five consecutive wins and a 34-14 record over the previous seven weeks but were handed their first sweep since April.

Takashi Saito (1-3) relieved Derek Lowe to begin the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to Juan Pierre. After a sacrifice and a flyout, Konerko lined the first pitch he saw into the left-field bleachers.

With the fans chanting, "Paul-ie! Paul-ie!" Konerko came out of the dugout and waved his helmet. It was the 18th homer for the White Sox captain, who is batting .410 with 22 RBIs in his last 21 games.

Chicago is 141-103 in interleague play since it began in 1997, including 13-2 this season. Its entire winning streak has come against NL teams.

Floyd allowed only two singles over seven innings, walking one and striking out nine. It was the fourth straight outstanding outing for the right-hander, who has allowed just three runs in his last 29 innings to lower his ERA from 6.64 to 4.80.

He has a career 1.71 ERA in interleague play, including 0.89 in his last seven starts.

Floyd, who has received two runs of support or fewer in 11 of his 15 starts, began Chicago's 15-game stretch of brilliance by starting pitchers: a collective 2.03 ERA since his June 8 outing. The White Sox actually lost that game to fall to 24-33 but have been almost unbeatable since.

Putz (3-2) pitched a perfect eighth and Jenks a flawless ninth for his 17th save in 18 opportunities. Jenks has converted 12 straight saves and wrapped up all three victories in this series.

Lowe allowed five hits in seven innings and twice pitched out of serious trouble.

Chicago loaded the bases with one out in the fourth before Lowe struck out A.J. Pierzynski, who disgustedly slammed his bat. Andruw Jones then worked the count full before hitting a liner that left fielder Melky Cabrera caught on the run.

In the sixth, Pierzynski grounded into a double play with runners on the corners and one out. As he crossed first base, he fired his helmet to the ground.

The Braves had runners at first and third with two outs in the seventh but Floyd fanned Eric Hinske.

NOTES: Slumping White Sox 2B Gordon Beckham, one of baseball's top rookies last season, was on the bench Thursday and could face reduced playing time. He is batting .199 with one HR, leads the team with 48 strikeouts and has drawn only one walk in his last 29 games. Manager Ozzie Guillen, who used Brent Lillibridge at 2B Thursday, said: "When you strike out like that, you have to hit 40 home runs." ... Chicago had gone eight straight games without a HR before hitting four in this series, the first three by Carlos Quentin. ... Braves C David Ross bruised his right hand when hit by a foul tip Wednesday. X-rays were negative and he's day to day. ... Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said OF Matt Diaz (DL, right thumb infection) is swinging aggressively in batting practice. "I'm excited to get him back in the lineup," Cox said. "When he's going right, he hits everybody."