Contreras in control as White Sox win

Contreras in control as White Sox win

CLEVELAND -- Jose Contreras started the second half in the same manner that he finished the first, producing a very stingy quality start.

The White Sox opened action after the All-Star break with the same exact 1-0 victory in which they began this spectacular 2005 campaign. Both wins came against the Indians, only Thursday's whitewash took place at Jacobs Field.

Then again, if the White Sox and Indians are battling, there's a good chance the game is going to be tight. The South Siders hold a 7-3 advantage over Cleveland (47-42) this season, with six wins coming by one run and the seventh coming by a two-run differential.

"It's like that every time we play," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski of the highly competitive rivalry with the third-place Indians. "You don't see too many 1-0 games, especially in this park."

Thursday's shutout, the sixth of the season for the White Sox (58-29), pretty much followed the blueprint laid out by the team during the first 86 games. Solid starting pitching, leading to flawless bullpen work, coupled with just enough offense, produces victories more often than not.

Contreras (5-5) had been one of the few factors to work outside of that successful equation, although manager Ozzie Guillen mentioned that most of the doubt surrounding the right-hander came from rough starts against Arizona on June 13 and at Oakland on July 1. Before the break, Contreras stated that he physically felt great and hadn't lost an ounce of confidence. He also planned for the second half to almost serve as a new season.

Contreras allowed three hits over seven scoreless innings. He struck out one Cleveland hitter in every frame while walking three.

Nonetheless, he pitched out of tight situations with runners in scoring position during the third, fourth and fifth. Contreras settled down before exiting, retiring eight of the final nine hitters he faced. His split-finger was as good as it has been since coming to the White Sox in a deal with the Yankees at the trade deadline last year, but the split-finger was set up by his ability to locate the fastball.

This recent resurgence, in which the right-hander has allowed nine hits and two runs over the last 13 innings, has nothing to do with trade rumors involving his name swirling around.

"Those rumors come because the numbers that were there were not numbers pitchers should have on a wining team," said Contreras through translator Ozzie Guillen Jr. "I wasn't throwing the ball like I thought. Now, I can be more aggressive, and it's a different half. As long as I win, I'm confident I'll have my job."

"If this kid continues to throw the way he has during the last two starts, watch out," added Guillen, who mentioned that Contreras pitched through cramps, caused by fluid loss, in the sixth and seventh. "This kid has the chance to be outstanding, but he also has the chance to be real bad."

Frank Thomas' RBI double, just out of the reach of Coco Crisp's leaping effort in left field in the first inning, brought home Tadahito Iguchi with the game's only run. The White Sox had a chance to blow the game open early against Kevin Millwood (3-8), but Jermaine Dye struck out swinging and Pierzynski grounded out to shortstop Jhonny Peralta to end a bases-loaded, one-out threat.

The White Sox swiped four bases against Millwood and Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez, led by three from Scott Podsednik, giving him a Major League-best 47 for the season. Podsednik stole two bases in the eighth after a swinging bunt single, putting him on third with one out. Millwood struck out Iguchi and Thomas to end the threat.

"We don't care what other teams think, whether they are giving up or not. Our job is to get as far away from everyone as we can. The season is still far, far from over."
-- White Sox closer Dustin Hermanson

Cliff Politte, Damaso Marte and Dustin Hermanson worked the final two innings, and Hermanson collected his 22nd save. The relief corps struck out four straight over the eighth and ninth. Marte, who came off the 15-day disabled list prior to Thursday's game, made his first appearance since June 26, and he picked up three of those four strikeouts.

"That's the hardest I've seen him throw this year," said Pierzynski of Marte, who regularly hits 95 or 96 mph on the speed gun.

For the fourth time this season, Chicago avoided a four-game losing streak. The White Sox lost three straight to the A's before the All-Star break. Their lead moved back to double digits at 10 games, thanks to the Angels' 3-2 victory at Minnesota.

Cleveland currently sits 12 games behind the White Sox and basically has just the Wild Card to focus on in terms of postseason aspirations. But the White Sox aren't concerned about putting away the Indians during this four-game series.

They simply want to play the same winning brand of baseball they put forth during the first half and focus on what they need to do to move closer to their first goal -- reaching the postseason.

"I don't think we are trying to look at who we are playing," said Hermanson of the White Sox, who now own a 23-9 record in one-run games and a 27-5 mark against the American League Central. "We are just trying to win games.

"We don't care what other teams think, whether they are giving up or not. Our job is to get as far away from everyone as we can. The season is still far, far from over."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.