White Sox 15, Rangers 4

Wednesday, May 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Tony Graffanino is making the most of his increased playing time with the Chicago White Sox.

Filling in for injured sceond baseman Ray Durham, Graffanino had two homers and six RBIs, and Mark Buehrle became the first AL pitcher to reach seven wins as Chicago routed the Texas Rangers 15-4 on Tuesday night.

Graffanino tied his career high with four hits as the White Sox snapped a four-game losing streak. Durham's sore left hand has given Graffanino more opportunties.

``I've been getting some pretty consistent playing time, and it's enabling me to get some good swings,'' said Graffanino, who has never had more than 289 at-bats in parts of six big-league seasons.

Graffanino is batting .378 in his last 11 games, and manager Jerry Manuel said he's not about to sit him.

``We've got to give Tony every opportunity to cool down,'' Manuel said. ``He has really matured as a hitter, and always gives you quality at-bats despite having a lot of time off between them.''

Paul Konerko, one of Graffanino's closest friends on the team, said he's a player everyone can root for.

``Everybody loves Tony on this team. He works hard. He's gotta work hard because he never knows when he's going to get in there,'' Konerko said. ``He can play, what, five positions and even catch if he had to.''

Graffanino, who went 4-for-4 and reached base in all five plate appearances, hit a solo shot in the sixth and a three-run shot in the seventh for his first career two-homer game.

After the second homer, 17,503 Comiskey Park fans chanted, ``To-ny, To-ny!'' until the unassuming Graffanino came out of the dugout and waved.

``I felt silly,'' Graffanino said of his first-ever curtain call.

After going 54 games without a homer, Graffanino has hit three in his last two.

``I'm definitely not going to hit home runs,'' he said. ``I'm just trying to get on base and play the game the right way.''

Buehrle (7-2) allowed four runs _ three earned _ on six hits over seven innings to win his third straight start. He struck out four, walked two and hit two batters.

``He is just a veteran pitcher at age 23,'' said Herbert Perry, who hit a two-run homer for Texas. ``With him, you want to get anything you can get.''

Sandy Alomar Jr. drove in four runs, Konerko homered and Frank Thomas doubled twice and had two RBIs as Chicago stopped Texas' four-game winning streak. Doug Davis (3-4) allowed five earned runs on eight hits over 5 1-3 innings.

The White Sox led 6-4 through the sixth, but tacked on six more runs in the seventh and three in the eighth as the Rangers surrendered their most runs this season.