CHICAGO -- Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano responded to another rough first-inning performance against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field much differently on Monday night than he did to a similar situation last season.
Almost one year after blowing up on teammate Derrek Lee in the dugout following a four-run first inning for the White Sox on June 25, 2010, Zambrano bounced back to lead the Cubs to a 6-3 victory. Zambrano allowed three runs on three hits in the first inning, including Paul Konerko's 20th home run of the season, but rebounded to last eight innings without giving up another run for the win.
"[He] just mixed it up really well," Konerko said of Zambrano. "Didn't see too many pitches twice in a row or in the same location. He pitched great. You've got to tip your hat to him. He came out and gave up a couple of runs early and just settled down."
"After that, I was feeling so good," Zambrano said about Konerko's home run, marking the earliest point in which Konerko has reached 20 home runs in a single season. "I said, 'This is my game and that's enough. Let's be aggressive. Let's be in control, but aggressive. Let's pitch a good game.' And that's what I did."
The first-inning homer gave the White Sox a 3-0 lead and extended Konerko's home run-streak to four games. The long ball also gave Konerko his 12th season with 20 or more home runs, breaking a tie with Frank Thomas for the club record for most career 20-home run seasons.
But Konerko's blast was the last run support the White Sox would provide for starter Gavin Floyd, who failed to record an out in the sixth inning before being lifted for Brian Bruney after giving up four runs. After allowing shortstop Starlin Castro to cut the lead to one with a two-run single in the third, Floyd gave up the tying home run to Castro to start the sixth. The right-hander then allowed a Blake DeWitt single and walked Aramis Ramirez before serving up the decisive three-run homer to Carlos Pena.
"I made a bad pitch to the leadoff guy, obviously, Castro, and it's just one of those things, when you get two strikes, you have to make a better pitch," Floyd said. "Things kind of led to getting guys on and then I made a bad pitch to Pena. You just have to put it behind you and move on."
The six earned runs tied a season high for Floyd and the five-plus innings he pitched were the second fewest he's worked. It was also the first time the White Sox had allowed more than four runs as a team in their last eight games.
The frustrations from the top of the inning continued into the bottom of the sixth when manager Ozzie Guillen was ejected for arguing a call by home-plate umpire James Hoye. White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez was called out when catcher Geovany Soto picked up a ground ball that had spun back toward home plate and tagged Ramirez. Guillen immediately charged out of the dugout claiming Soto had picked the ball up behind the plate -- in foul territory -- and was subsequently ejected for the second time this season and 27th time in his career.
"He was right, I was wrong," Guillen said. "Because if I say what I want to say, I lose another 20 grand. So I'm just going to leave it that way. He was right, I was wrong and I got kicked out of the game. I'm tired of paying people money for no reason."
Guillen's club might have already missed out on its best opportunity to put up more runs by that point. One inning earlier, with runners on the corners and one out, Carlos Quentin flied out to shallow right field. Cubs manager Mike Quade then went out to talk to Zambrano before allowing him to pitch to Konerko with two outs instead of walking him to load the bases for Adam Dunn, who was 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts at that point. Zambrano struck out the White Sox slugger, keeping the Cubs within a run and setting up their sixth-inning rally.
"We've talked about pitching [Konerko] all trip carefully," Quade said. "We all know Z loves to challenge people. I wanted to make sure we got that done. He actually did a pretty good job. He did a great job."
The White Sox again put two runners on base in the ninth inning against Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, but failed to capitalize. With runners on first and second and one out, Mark Teahen flied out to right before a Juan Pierre ground out ended the ballgame. As a team, the White Sox were 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base.
The loss dropped the White Sox to 35-39 on the season and 41-38 all-time against the Cubs. They stayed 5 1/2 games back of the first-place Indians after Cleveland's one-run loss to the Rockies on Monday night.
Paul Casella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.