Hitting back

Tribune staff reporter

The White Sox's blueprint for success returned for eight innings Wednesday night, providing a sense of relief.

The biggest ingredient was an offense that broke out of its nine-game rut with 13 hits and enabled the Sox to hold on for a 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

The victory featured the return of clutch hitting and Mark Buehrle's masterful pitching, as well as superb defense for the second consecutive night by right fielder Jermaine Dye.

That gave the Sox enough to relish as they snapped a four-game losing streak to the Twins. In the process, the Sox extended their lead in the American League Central to eight games over Cleveland.

This marked the first time since Aug. 4—when their lead was 14games—that the Sox gained a game in the AL Central standings.

Relievers Cliff Politte and Damaso Marte failed to protect a five-run lead in the ninth.

Closer Dustin Hermanson, pitching for the first time since allowing a game-tying home run to the Twins' Michael Cuddyer in the ninth inning of a 16-inning loss on Aug. 16, retired Cuddyer on a fly that left fielder Timo Perez caught on his knees to end the game.

"To be honest, we've been reading articles about us choking all year," Hermanson said. "It's nothing new. When we had a 14-game lead, people were talking about us choking.

"I'm just hoping guys aren't reading the papers and guys are acting like kids and having fun because it seems like when this team is having fun, it's when we play the best.

"We haven't been doing that lately because guys have been putting pressure on themselves."

Despite the ninth-inning tension, the Sox's offense snapped a trend that saw them average fewer than three runs in their last nine games, eight of which were losses.

Before Wednesday, the Sox had scored in only three of their previous 53 innings.

Designated hitter Carl Everett hit a two-run homer in the first inning and a two-run single in the fifth.

"To have Carl step up early and give us confidence was huge," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.

Before Everett's two-run single, the Sox were 1-for-22 with runners in scoring position.

They added another clutch hit in the fifth on Dye's two-out double that scored Pierzynski.

Tadahito Iguchi's sacrifice fly in the sixth became important because of the Twins' ninth-inning rally.

Dye completed the Sox's most impressive defensive play in the sixth when he leaped to catch Nick Punto's line drive and fired a one-hop throw to Pierzynski, who tagged Mike Redmond at the plate to complete the inning-ending double play and preserve Buehrle's shutout bid.

But Buehrle's bid ended when Matt LeCroy ripped a home run to center with two outs in the seventh.

Buehrle (14-6) issued no walks in eight innings while snapping a two-game losing streak. He allowed only two hits through the first five innings.Buehrle has won at least 14 games for five consecutive seasons.


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