ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—Two weeks after calling his lineup changes temporary, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has reconsidered.
That decision to make the changes permanent is paying off handsomely, as the Sox received production throughout the batting order Thursday night in beating American League East leader Tampa Bay 5-1.
Paul Konerko and Jim Thome. Konerko, who fell from the cleanup spot to sixth as part of the changes in an effort to spark a stagnant lineup, hit his first home run since April 27 — a span of 95 at-bats — to cap the Sox's 11-hit attack.
"I was so glad Paulie got that type of game," Guillen said after Konerko's two hits raised his batting average to .213. "We need that as a team, and he needs that."
Thome, who fell from the third spot to fifth, collected two hits, including a two-out RBI single during a two-run second inning.
"We need that," Guillen said. "Jim is a professional hitter. When he's in a slump, you can see it."
Thome raised his batting average to .212, and the rest of the offense has picked up the slack since Guillen altered the lineup May 14.
The Sox are 12-3 since those changes were implemented. The pitching staff's prowess is largely responsible for the record during that span, but the offense has provided some much-needed support and taken pressure off the starting pitchers.
"I don't want this team to be a one-man team," said Guillen, referring to the production of Carlos Quentin. "Everyone has to do their job. Our offense should be good. I think we should be better."
Orlando Cabrera, who moved to the leadoff spot, has raised his batting average to .245 — up from .224 — since the switch and is 8-for-19 on the first four games of this trip.
Cabrera ignited the two-run rally in the third by hitting a leadoff single, and he capped the Sox's two-run sixth.
"I think it's about time for me to start hitting the ball well and getting some hits and getting on base for the guys behind me," Cabrera said. "The leadoff role is important to me because we don't have anyone stealing bases and getting [on] for the guys."
Quentin collected his 48th RBI by singling to score Cabrera in the third.
The productive offense was plenty for John Danks (4-4), who pitched six innings of one-run baseball while tying a career high with eight strikeouts.
Danks struck out the side in the first and worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third.
The Sox (30-23) are a season-high seven games above the .500 mark this season while maintaining their two-game lead in the American League Central.
"We have a job to do," Danks said. "We know the division is very winnable right now. We're in a good position and we feel if we can keep winning, we've got a good shot. We try not to let that stuff bother us, and it's been great."