KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The intensity returned Friday night.
So did the power.
Ozzie Guillen questioned the White Sox's passion and lack of swagger, they responded with four home runs to pull away to a 9-4 victory over the Royals.
With Minnesota's 11-1 loss at Tampa Bay, the Sox can feel giddy about their current state as they expanded their lead in the American League Central to 21/2 games and reduced their magic number to seven with nine games left.
After saying his players were too content with a small division lead and didn't act like a first-place team, Guillen raised his hands in elation after Alexei Ramirez snapped a scoreless tie in the fourth inning with a two-out grand slam that tied a major league record for rookies with his third of the year.
"Everyone yelled at one time," said winning pitcher Mark Buehrle, who became the first active pitcher to win 10 games, make 30 starts and throw 200 innings for eight consecutive seasons with six innings on three days rest. "It was a huge pick-me-up."
Ramirez now shares the rookie record with the New York Yankees' Shane Spencer, who accomplished the feat in 1998.
"I'm really glad I got to tie the record," Ramirez said after hitting his 19th homer. "Especially fighting for the [AL] rookie of the year and the way the team is playing, everything has been so great this year."
Guillen, who has challenged the Sox during slumps, was pleased that they heeded his words to play with more zest.
"At least they listen," Guillen joked. "I think this club is about reaction."
Ramirez's slam barely cleared the left-field wall but capped a sequence of persistent at-bats of the type Guillen stressed in the meeting.
For example, A.J. Pierzynski fouled off three consecutive pitches before drawing a walk to load the bases, and Ramirez fouled off five straight before cranking his homer on a 2-2 count.
In the fifth, Jim Thome hit his 540th career homer to snap an 0-for-11 slump. Dewayne Wise hit two home runs and Nick Swisher snapped an 0-for-14 rut with two hits.
"You win pennant races when you do it yourself," Guillen said before the game. "The last couple of days I didn't see the intensity. When you don't hit well, don't see many people on base, when you don't make pitches and when you aren't winning games, it seems like the intensity is not there.
"I don't say we don't try. Yes, we play hard. But we have to keep the intensity level up. We've been fighting since February and we only have [nine] games left."
Buehrle hopes the Sox can trim the magic number before a three-game series begins Tuesday in Minnesota.
"You know how we play there, and how they play at home," Buehrle said. "We'd like to be at least 21/2 games up going in there. And if better things happen, we could clinch there.
"But we have to take this one game at a time."