SEATTLE — While Paul Konerko is limited to DH duty for the Chicago White Sox because of a leg injury, former Jackson High School star Brent Lillibridge has been his replacement at first base much of the past month.
Friday night at Safeco Field, Lillibridge made like the power-hitting Ko
nerko and won a game with his bat. His two-run homer in the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie and gave the White Sox a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
The 27-year-old Lillibridge, in his first full major league season, has been on a bit of a home-run tear this month. He has hit five of his 12 homers this season in the past 15 games after going without a homer from June 4-Aug.5.
The Mariners had just tied the score with a run in the bottom of the fourth when Lillibridge batted with Juan Pierre on first base and nobody out in the fifth.
On the third pitch he saw in the at-bat from Mariners left-hander Charlie Furbush, Lillibridge drove a 1-1 fastball well over the left-center-field fence and into the Mariners’ bullpen. It measured 419 feet.
“I was just trying to get on base and he left the ball right over the middle,” said Lillibridge, who went 1-for-5 and struck out three times. “I feel like it was one of the only pitches I got to hit today and I was able to hit it hard, and over the fence again.”
As Lillibridge crossed home plate, several of Lillibridge’s family and friends cheered amid an otherwise quiet crowd.
“It was big. It was exciting,” he said. “All my family and friends get to see it and stuff. It was fun. You grow up watching games here, 20 games a year, every year as a fan of the Mariners and I’m able to hit one here out of the park against my favorite team. It’s something special. I won’t forget it.”
The Mariners managed 10 hits off White Sox starter Jake Peavy and three relievers, but never the one big swing that could end their frustration.
Miguel Olivo homered to lead off the bottom of the second inning and Trayvon Robinson blooped an RBI single in the fourth to tie the score 2-2.
But after that, the Mariners did little but put runners on base and leave them there.
Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez grounded into outs to end the fourth with two runners on, they wasted Dustin Ackley’s leadoff single in the fifth and also left the bases loaded in seventh.
After Suzuki’s leadoff single in the ninth, left-hander Chris Sale retired the next three to end the game.
The Mariners left 11 runners on base and went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Furbush, starting his sixth game since the Mariners acquired him in a July 30 trade from the Tigers, struggled throughout his five innings but minimized the damage until Lillibridge homered.
The White Sox scored twice in the first inning on three hits, including back-to-back RBI bloop singles by Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez. Furbush pitched a 1-2-3 second inning and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third, but his pitch count was soaring.
He’d thrown 70 pitches through three innings, 85 after the fourth and, after getting three outs following Lillibridge’s homer, was finished after 103.
“He had real good stuff,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Furbush, who’s 2-3 with a 6.48 earned run average with the Mariners, 3-6 and 4.87 for the season. “He made it hard for himself and threw a lot of pitches early on. He made some good pitches, he survived. But you’d like to see your starter be a little more efficient early on so he can go deeper in the game.”
Tom Wilhelmsen and Jeff Gray each pitched two scoreless innings of relief for the Mariners, but the offense did nothing despite multiple opportunities. The Mariners out-hit the White Sox 10-8.
Suzuki went 2-for-5, bumping his average two points to .273. He needs 52 hits in the final 32 games to reach the 200-hit mark for the 11th straight season.
“We just didn’t hit when it really counted,” Wedge said. “We put up good at-bats, but it’s tough when you leaved the bases loaded a couple of times and leave more than 10 runners on base. We pushed the ballgame offensively but we just didn’t finish off innings.”
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog and follow his Twitter updates at @kirbyarnold.