Although they didn't come all the way back, the White Sox put a serious scare into the Rangers before falling, 9-6. The South Siders scored four in the sixth on A.J. Pierzynski's seventh career grand slam, coming off of reliever Luis Mendoza, tying him with Jorge Posada for most among active catchers.
But too much damage already had been done against Contreras. The right-hander was lit up for seven runs on seven hits, striking out three and walking two, leaving manager Ozzie Guillen once again questioning Contreras' future in the starting rotation.
"To be honest with you, we try to figure out everything we could," Guillen said of Contreras, who was removed after throwing 37 of his 63 pitches for strikes. "I don't get it. You can be throwing great and all of a sudden you lose everything.
"I don't want to give up on him. It's not my style. But I would like to know what's going through his mind. I'm going crazy about it."
Guillen pointed out that a lack of stuff is not the problem for Contreras. In fact, Guillen added that he's seen pitchers with less stuff win more frequently than Contreras.
Contreras, speaking through interpreter Ozzie Guillen Jr., mentioned that he doesn't feel any pain whatsoever. The fact that he feels so good and his stuff seems so crisp, especially coming out of the bullpen for Saturday's effort, makes his lack of success far more frustrating.
"That really is the most frustrating part," said Contreras, who has not won since June 27, 2008, against the Cubs, covering nine straight starts. He has a 1-7 record in his past eight decisions. "I feel as strong as I have in a couple of years. One hit, two hits come, and the next thing you know, the team is down. For some reason, I can't find a way out of it."
"Jose is such a great guy and he works so hard," Pierzynski said. "You just want him to succeed. We are all frustrated like him because we all want him to do well. We need him to do well."
Saturday's game changed direction in the third inning, with the White Sox clinging to a 1-0 lead, when Hank Blalock took Contreras deep on a 2-1 pitch with runners on second and third and two outs. Contreras struck out Michael Young to get the important second out of the frame, but Blalock broke a 0-for-8 career drought against Contreras with a 423-foot home run, his seventh.
Texas (11-12) scored six in the fourth off Contreras (0-4) and reliever Clayton Richard, courtesy of five doubles. The outburst made a winner of Brandon McCarthy (3-0), who was facing his original team for the first time in his career. He gave up one run on three hits over five innings.
When McCarthy departed after rain delay No. 3, the White Sox began to work their way into contention. They followed Pierzynski's grand slam with a run in the seventh on Jim Thome's 400th career double, but runners were stranded at second and third when Brent Lillibridge struck out against Darren O'Day.
Lillibridge replaced Jermaine Dye, who left the game in the sixth after being hit in the left hand by a Mendoza pitch. X-rays were negative on Dye, and he is listed as day-to-day.
Frank Francisco (seventh save) pitched a perfect ninth to match a club record with his 11th straight scoreless appearance to start the season and snap a two-game winning streak for the White Sox (12-11).
By the time this game came to a close, a little more than five hours after it began, the White Sox seemed ready to move on to Sunday's series finale with John Danks on the mound.
"Usually, you get one here and there but not a couple like that," Pierzynski said of the four rain delays. "It was just a long day. You get here early to prepare for the game, and then you look up and it's 12:15 [a.m.] and you are in the ninth inning. It was one of those games. We got so far behind early, and that's what made it worse."
"Two things were good about this game. [Lance] Broadway and [D.J.] Carrasco threw the ball good, and we never quit," Guillen said. "Otherwise, it was an ugly game. Early in the game, the weather was better than our pitching. We came up short, but we fought back."