Paul Konerko homers after beaning

CHICAGO -- Not even a pitch to the mouth could take the White Sox's Paul Konerko out of a game.

And to show just how resilient he is, Konerko came back two innings later to hit a home run.

Afterward, he couldn't even talk about it. "I wish I could," he mumbled through a fat lip.

Insisting all week that he will continue to push himself even though the Twins have taken command of the American League Central, the MVP candidate proved it Thursday.

In the bottom of the first inning, a pitch from Twins right-hander Carl Pavano came up and in on Konerko, glancing off his face. He went to the ground immediately, putting his hand over his mouth and nose.

With manager Ozzie Guillen and trainer Herm Schneider at his side, Konerko insisted on playing, finally taking first base after putting some gauze in one nostril. The crowd gave Konerko a sizeable ovation.

"I tried to get him out of the game, and he didn't want to come out and I respect that," Guillen said. "I hope players, not just White Sox players but players in general, look at themselves in the mirror and see what this guy did. This guy has a chance to be MVP with great numbers and a great career and stepped it up like a man and played the game."

White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle sent a message right back to the Twins when his first pitch of the second inning hit Michael Cuddyer in the back of the left shoulder.

Cuddyer took first base without incident, but home-plate umpire Jerry Crawford gave a warning to both benches. Daring to talk about it afterward, Buehrle walked a fine line.

"I am an employee of the White Sox, and I try to do the best job I can," Buehrle said. "When I'm told to do something, I go out and try to do it the best of my ability. Obviously, you have to protect your guys. People watch the game and see what happens."

In the end, revenge wasn't so sweet for the White Sox as Cuddyer ended up scoring in the Twins' three-run inning. The Twins won the game 8-5 to sweep the series and take a nine-game lead in the division over the White Sox.

In the third inning, Konerko's upper lip was severely swollen but he stayed true to his word that he would not quit on the season despite the White Sox' eight-game deficit in the division before play Thursday.

On the very next pitch he saw from Pavano, he launched one into the seats in left field for his 37th home run of the season. He also has 105 RBIs.

"You just play," Konerko said before the game. "It's really not that hard to do. It's what you get paid to do as a professional. And even if it wasn't that, it's what we have been doing since we were little kids. When you go out on the baseball field, you do the best you can when you are hitting or playing the field.

"You have integrity and play the game hard. I don't see it as being difficult. Toward the end of the year you get run down, and it's always a long year, but that's part of being a big-leaguer."

Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.