After the talented and emotional right-hander allowed just one hit in seven shutout innings, he departed after 108 pitches and the White Sox feasted on the Cubs' erratic bullpen.
Konerko delivered a key two-run single in a four-run eighth Saturday as the White Sox rallied for a 5-3 victory.
"We were not disappointed to see him get out of there. He was dealing. And anybody who came in after him was not going to look the same because he was really throwing the ball well," said Konerko's whose two-out single in the sixth ended Zambrano's no-hit bid.
With Michael Wuertz (2-2) relieving Zambrano, the White Sox played the kind of baseball they have all season in forging the best record in the majors.
And then with two outs, Konerko hit a sinking liner on a 3-2 pitch, but diving Cubs center fielder Corey Patterson couldn't hold the ball as it hit his glove.
"When I first hit it, I thought it was a for-sure hit. Then as he was running in, I was losing hope," Konerko said. "He starts to open up his glove and you think he's going to make that play. More times than not he probably does. You need some good luck."
And the White Sox have had their share of good fortune, while also playing solid ball in nearly every game. They are 31-12.
"I was coming hard and when I got to it, I just took my eye off the ball at the last minute and it kicked away," Patterson said.
"Right when the crowd started cheering and I hit the ground, I knew I didn't have it."
"We thought he (Patterson) had a chance to catch it. I guess that's what happens when you are playing a club that is hot," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
The Cubs got two back in the bottom of the eighth on Jerry Hairston's RBI double and Derrek Lee's run-scoring single off Cliff Politte. But the rally ended when Damaso Marte picked Lee off first to end the inning.
Jermaine Dye then homered in the ninth for the White Sox to give them a two-run cushion.
Dustin Hermanson put runners on first and second in the ninth before finishing for his 10th save in as many chances and has not given up a run in 20 1/3 innings this season.
Jose Contreras (2-1), who was outpitched by Zambrano, got the win with a strong seven innings of his own. He gave up just four hits and a run -- Jeromy Burnitz's RBI single in the fourth.
Zambrano held the White Sox hitless for 5 2/3 innings before Konerko had his soft two-out single to center.
"It was a great pitch and I hit it off the end of the bat," Konerko said. "I just blooped it in there."
Zambrano had been forced to leave his previous start against Washington after 3 1/3 innings because of a sore elbow and had thrown 136 pitches in the outing before that, a complete-game victory over the Phillies.
After not pitching in a week, he was done after his seven standout innings.
"If I go more than that inning and something happens, somebody will start talking and say Dusty let me go too deep and I had too many pitches," Zambrano said. "I try to protect myself and try to do the best I can.
"That was enough for me and we have to trust our bullpen."
Zambrano walked three, struck out eight and hit two batters.
"He was effectively wild, so you couldn't dig in," Konerko said.
Zambrano hit Rowand with a pitch in the fourth. And after Rowand went into second with a hard slide, Zambrano just barely clipped Pierzynski with a pitch.
That prompted a warning from home plate umpire Marvin Hudson -- the second straight day both benches had been warned after a hit batter-- and brought both managers out to discuss the warning.
"You should get out of the way when you see the ball coming at you," Zambrano said.
Pierzynski said there was no words exchanged but he did try to dodge the pitch.
"It was 95 mph right at me," he said.
Contreras retired the first 10 Cubs batters before Neifi Perez singled with one out in the fourth.
Perez stole second and was momentarily shaken up after the headfirst slide but then raced home on Burnitz's two-out single to right, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
- Cubs RHP Kerry Wood began a light throwing program Saturday after an MRI showed the inflammation in his right shoulder was almost all gone. On the disabled list since early May, Wood will be evaluated daily.
- On a 55-degree day at Wrigley Field, attendance was announced at 39,461. The wind was blowing in but just at 6 mph.