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White Sox start 2nd half of season in 1st place

CHICAGO (AP) — Ozzie Guillen's always full of advice. The way his Chicago White Sox played before the break this season — a miserable start and then a stunning turnaround — it sure seems appropriate.

Ozzie says: Don't look around. Just play.

On June 8, the White Sox were nine games under .500 and 9½ games out of first in the American League Central. After a head-turning 25-5 tear, they've taken over first place.

Now comes a real challenge — a three-city road trip to Minneapolis, Seattle and Oakland to start the second half.

So how will the White Sox be affected by the three-day layoff?

"We're not going to look down, we're not going to look up. In a pennant race, every day is going to be tougher and tougher," Guillen said.

The White Sox shook off their early difficulties with the stirring run that includes a .288 team batting average and a staff 2.42 ERA. And hitters like Carlos Quentin finally got hot. He had six homers in the final homestand before the break and now has 19 for the season, along with 61 RBIs.

The rotation has become solid with Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Freddy Garcia, though the White Sox will have to adjust to the loss of Jake Peavy, out for the season with a detached muscle behind his pitching shoulder.

Veteran Paul Konerko, now in his 12th season with the White Sox, said he'd never seen a turnaround quite like this one, from a team flailing to keep from being buried to one that ripped off 25 wins in 30 games.

With a snap of the finger or a crack of the bat, the White Sox went from sellers at the trade deadline to potential buyers.

"It's not how you draw it up," Konerko said. "It's not realistic that you're going to win at that clip for the next 80 games. ... I think the attitude was that no one panicked. Everybody thought we would have a streak. I just think most people knew that if we didn't do it in certain amount of time, it might not be allowed to happen because of the business of the game.

"In August or September this might be a different looking team, so there was kind of a little bit more of an urgency to do it."

Leadoff hitter Juan Pierre has gotten his average to .257 after a slow start and played a solid left field. A veteran of several teams, including the World Series champion Marlins in 2003 when Guillen was their third base coach, Pierre was surprised by the longevity of the streak.

"You can't really say you predicted this to happen but you knew it would be possible with the kind of team we had," Pierre said.

"And now we still got to roll with it. It's not like we're 10 games up. We just had to win all those games just to get back in the hunt. It's still a long season and hopefully everyone stays healthy No. 1 and we continue to do the little things."

Guillen joked last week that the wins have spared him the daily questions about his strained relationship with general manager Ken Williams, one that has apparently been patched up.

Williams wasn't happy in spring training when the opinionated and often profane Guillen opened a Twitter account. Guillen's son, Oney, also resigned from the scouting department after a couple of his Twitter posts were critical of the team.

And then there was a published report that manager Guillen and Williams nearly came to blows after Guillen's youngest son, Ozney, wasn't picked in the draft — by the White Sox — until the 22nd round.

Owner Jerry Reinsdorf met with Williams and Guillen and told them they had to get along. And now, at least, their working relationship appears to be right on track. Their talents meshed five years ago when the White Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1917.

The White Sox certainly weren't distracted by Guillen-Williams feud — if there was one — because they have become used to Guillen's headline-drawing antics over the years.

For his part, Guillen said he's shocked by how quickly the team went from one extreme to the next. He said he told them after their early struggles included a 9-14 start in April that anything was possible because there was no way they could be any worse.

And after deciding not to re-sign veteran slugger Jim Thome or Jermaine Dye, Chicago has been riding the long ball, especially in its homer-friendly park. The White Sox have 31 homers in their previous 17 games at U.S. Cellular Field.

"I think before the season if you had said we'd be right where we're at, I would say that makes sense give or take a couple games, but the way we got here, it's been crazy," said Konerko, who was a late selection to the All-Star game after batting .299 with 20 homers and 63 RBIs.

"It's just a product of guys having good at-bats," Konerko added. "We knew right from the get-go that we had a bunch of good hitters in our lineup, but we said there's no Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols, or some guy like that in the lineup, but we have a bunch of guys that can string anywhere from 15 to 25 homers deep into the lineup. That's starting to come out now.

"It's taken a while, but I think when it's all said and done, we'll probably have that type of lineup that we thought we'd have in spring training."