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White Sox 2, Cubs 1

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CHICAGO (AP)

The plan called for Mark Buehrle and the rest of the Chicago White Sox's rotation to dominate.

Who thought it would take this long to come to fruition?

Buehrle pitched scoreless ball into the seventh, Paul Konerko drove in two runs and the White Sox handed Carlos Silva his first loss, beating the struggling Cubs 2-1 Saturday for their season-high fourth straight win.

Konerko delivered a run-scoring single in the first and another in the seventh after Juan Pierre stole second, avoiding the tag with a neat dive. Konerko is 20 for 42 in his last 12 games.

The Cubs got a run-scoring single from Ryan Theriot off Bobby Jenks with two outs in the ninth, but Jenks struck out Chad Tracy for his 11th save in 12 chances.

Buehrle (4-6), meanwhile, looked like his old self while sending the crosstown Cubs to their ninth loss in 12 games.

The solid outing by Buehrle capped a string of strong performances by a rotation that is finally starting to live up to the hype. White Sox starters have a 1.60 ERA over the past five games - a big improvement for a group that started the week with an American League-worst 5.28 ERA.

``That's how we were supposed to be pitching,'' Buehrle said. ``That's what we expected coming out of spring training.''

The veteran left-hander allowed eight hits and struck out seven without a walk against an all right-handed lineup after going 1-6 with a 6.22 ERA in his previous 10 starts. He left to cheers from the White Sox fans after allowing back-to-back singles by Tyler Colvin and Theriot with two outs in the seventh.

Sergio Santos came in and struck out pinch-hitter Chad Tracy with a 97-mph fastball on the outside corner.

J.J. Putz pitched a scoreless eighth.

Jenks issued a leadoff walk in the ninth to Geovany Soto, who went to second on Kosuke Fukudome's chopper to the mound for the second out and came around on Theriot's single to right, but the White Sox hung on.

``We're getting the good pitching and timely hitting,'' Pierre said. ``We dug ourselves such a hole that it's going to take one of these runs to get back in this thing. This is a big stretch for us.''

Marlon Byrd had three hits for the Cubs, who fell eight games below .500 for the first time since they were 24-32 on June 5, 2007. They went on to win the first of two straight NL Central titles that year.

``It's very disappointing,'' Alfonso Soriano said. ``We're not supposed to lose like we lost today.''

Silva (8-1) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings while falling short in his bid to become the first Cubs starter to open a season 9-0 since Ken Holtzman in 1967. He set career highs with 123 pitches and two hit batters, and although he wasn't at his sharpest, he delivered another solid outing.

He allowed consecutive singles by Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios and Konerko as the White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first and left the bases loaded after hitting A.J. Pierzynski.

Pierre set up the White Sox's second run with a leadoff walk in the seventh and a spectacular dive to steal second on a pitchout.

The throw from Soto beat him by about six feet, but Pierre lifted his left arm and contorted his body to avoid shortstop Starlin Castro's tag before getting his hand on the bag.

With two outs, the Cubs decided to go after the surging Konerko rather than walk him to face Carlos Quentin, and he drove in Pierre with a single to right to make it 2-0.

As for the tag, Castro thought Pierre was out, but manager Lou Piniella said he won't get that call.

``He has a tendency to want to reach out instead of putting the ball or the glove on the bag where he can tag the runner,'' Piniella said. ``He wants to reach. And the umpires, when they see you reach and then they see you reach again, they're not going to give you the call.''

NOTES: The Cubs will honor the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in a pregame ceremony on Sunday, with several players throwing out a ceremonial first pitch and leading the crowd in ``Take Me Out to the Ball Game'' during the seventh-inning stretch. Jim Cornelison will also sing the national anthem, as he does at Blackhawks games. Blackhawks president John McDonough was a longtime Cubs executive. ... White Sox infielder Omar Vizquel, who's tending to a family matter in Venezuela, might be back in time for Sunday's game.

Tagged: White Sox, Cubs, Paul Konerko, Bobby Jenks, Mark Buehrle, Juan Pierre, Chad Tracy, Ryan Theriot

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