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Chicago White SoxChicago White Sox dump Kansas City Royals 4-2.

The White Sox waited one extra day, but found bright skies above and Mayor Richard Daley in the front row as they opened defense of their American League Central Division title Tuesday against Kansas City.

Game time temperature was 43 degrees but a capacity crowd of 37,449 was in a mostly festive mood, made even better with a 4-2 victory.

Like they did much of last season, the Sox waited until late in the game to set off fireworks, this time literally setting them off from the center-field scoreboard as Jim Thome socked a three-run homer in the eighth inning.

Down 2-1 entering the eighth, Josh Fields started the inning with a surprise bunt single. With one out, rookie Chris Getz singled for his second hit of the afternoon and, after Carlos Quentin whiffed, Thome launched a 400-foot bomb into center field.

Bobby Jenks pitched the ninth inning.

Sox manager Ozzie Guillen knew the keys to this season would be pitching and a revamped lineup.

"I want to pitch the way we pitched in '05," Guillen said. "That was the key. When you got [Scott] Podsednik and guys getting on base to make things happen, it makes it easy for everyone. That's what I mean when I say we got a lot of speed — first, second and third, six, seven, eight and nine. Having Josh Fields batting ninth with a lot of speed, good at-bats, our offense should be fine."

Mark Buehrle, making his seventh Opening Day start, lasted only five innings and left with a 2-1 deficit. Buehrle, who has been held back in spring training to save wear and tear on his valuable left shoulder, was far from sharp.

He needed 24 pitches to get out of a scoreless first inning when he allowed a hit and walk. For the day, Buehrle gave up three walks and hit two batters.

The Royals took a 1-0 lead off Buehrle in the second when Alex Gordon socked a pitch 418 feet into the center-field greenery.

The Sox tied in the second, although it took four hits to do it. Thome, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko all singled with no outs, with Thome having to go one base at a time. And after A.J. Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez popped out, Fields singled to score Thome, but Dye was thrown out easily at the plate when third base coach Jeff Cox sent him home.

Buehrle left two runners on base in the third and fourth innings but gave up the go-ahead run in the fifth. And the Royals' rally could have been worse if Fields had not made a back-handed stop of a ground ball behind third base and thrown out Mark Tehan at home. After Jose Guillen scored on a ground out, Buehrle escaped further damage when he struck out former batterymate Miguel Oliva.

Meanwhile. Sox hitters were struggling against Kansas City starter Gil Meche, who retired 10 straight hitters in the middle innings.

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