CHICAGO – Mark Buehrle pitched a four-hitter to follow up strong outings by Jose Contreras and Freddy Garcia, and Paul Konerko homered to help the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 for a three-game winning streak.

Ahead in the AL Central by 15 games on Aug. 1, the White Sox pushed their advantage back to 21/2 games with a week left, thanks to their victory and the Royals’ ninth-inning win over second-place Cleveland.

Before a spirited crowd of 30,402 in their last regular-season home game – both the crosstown Cubs and Bears were home on the same day – the White Sox waited out a rain delay to get their 94th victory.

In the top of the third, as the Royals’ 5-4 victory over the Indians was posted on the scoreboard, the crowd broke into a loud ovation.

Buehrle (16-8) is just 6-5 since the All-Star break, but he retired his first nine batters before Jason Tyner singled leading off the fourth. The left-hander struck out six and walked none.

Now the White Sox have seven games to play – four in Detroit and then a three-game showdown at Jacobs Field. With a double-digit lead so late, Chicago never figured to be in this position with a week remaining, having to win every game. But the Indians have won 17 of 20 to keep the pressure on. Chicago had lost 10 of 14 before starting this modest three-game winning streak and is now 25-26 since Aug. 1.

Pumping his fist as he rounded first, Konerko gave the White Sox a 4-0 lead with a two-run shot in the third inning, his 38th homer and first since Sept 9. It followed an RBI triple by Aaron Rowand.

The Twins got to Buehrle for a run in the fifth on Lew Ford’s single, a double by Terry Tiffee and an RBI grounder from Luis Rivas.

Joe Crede delivered a two-out RBI single in the second after Jermaine Dye singled and stole second against Francisco Liriano (0-2).

Liriano went six innings, allowing five hits and four runs with three walks and eight strikeouts.

Notes: The start was delayed 69 minutes by rain. … Buehrle is 15-9 in his career against the Twins, including 2-2 this season. The 15 victories are his most against any opponent. He has three complete games this season. … The Twins have grounded into a double play in 16 straight games. … The White Sox drew 2,343,833, the fourth-largest season attendance in franchise history and the biggest since 1993.

AP-ES-09-25-05 1820EDT

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