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Big frames help Chicago salvage finale

Big frames help Sox salvage finale

BOSTON -- For the first time in less than two weeks, the White Sox were able to exhale on Thursday night.

Yes, they have won games during that stretch -- three in 10 games to be exact. But during their 9-5 win over the Red Sox (73-54) to avoid a four-game sweep at Fenway Park, the White Sox posted their greatest margin of victory since an 8-1 shellacking in Oakland on Aug. 15.

To take this run of nail-biters a step further, the White Sox had dropped four games by one run during this dismal stretch. So, it was nice for Ozzie Guillen's crew to jump out early on Boston starter Junichi Tazawa (2-3) and never really look back.

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"Since we jumped out early like we did, you could feel their guys on the ropes," said White Sox second baseman Jayson Nix, one of five starters to turn in a multi-hit effort and one of three to drive in at least two runs with his three RBIs. "We were ready to attack, and it was good to feel that we had the momentum."

Nix actually provided this momentum in the second inning. The White Sox (64-64) loaded the bases with nobody out on singles from Paul Konerko and Jim Thome, as well as Carlos Quentin getting hit on the bill of his helmet by a Tazawa pitch. Mark Kotsay's sacrifice fly to left fielder Jason Bay scored one run, but when Alexei Ramirez flied out to center, it looked as if the potential for a big inning once again had faded.

This is the same basic lineup that had a .221 average with runners in scoring position over the past 22 games. But Nix changed the scope of the contest by lofting a towering fly ball off the top of the Green Monster on a 2-0 pitch from Tazawa, scoring Thome and Quentin.

Scott Podsednik followed with a run-scoring single, giving Chicago a 4-0 advantage.

"That was very important," said Guillen of Nix's two-run double. "With the way we were playing, bases loaded, sacrifice fly and then double-play ball and the inning is over. We had two outs and Nixie hit that ball and started the rally. They keep going and I think we need it."

"To jump on them like we did, have control from the start, it was good," Nix said.

Four more runs came across in the third inning, courtesy of Thome's sacrifice fly, Nix's single and Quentin's 15th home run -- a two-run shot. On his 39th birthday, Thome knocked out three hits and drove in two.

Their nine-run output marked the White Sox highest total at Fenway since scoring 14 on July 5, 1998. All nine came off of Tazawa, with the White Sox getting to him for 10 hits in just four innings.

"It was a tough night, right from the beginning, and we didn't have a lot of protection for him," said Boston manager Terry Francona of Tazawa. "So, we left him out there for a little while."

"We took advantage of that kid struggling, and thank God we did," Guillen said. "It was a big win for us, just for momentum. It was big just to get the energy back and the hope and to get in a better situation."

John Danks (12-8) didn't need all of the run support provided by his teammates, but he certainly wasn't arguing. The southpaw gave up two runs over six innings, on back-to-back solo home runs from J.D. Drew and Alex Gonzalez in the fifth, striking out six and walking one.

Over Danks' past four starts, he has posted a 3-0 record with a 1.95 ERA and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of those trips to the mound. The White Sox have 11 wins in August, and Danks has four of them.

But Thursday's victorious effort carried a little less pressure than recent outings for Danks, after being staked to a nine-run lead.

"They are capable of putting up runs like that, and tonight was evidence," said Danks, who threw 108 pitches in six innings. "It helps us relax a little bit. It's fun to watch. I'm grateful to get that tonight, to be the beneficiary."

"This kid, every time we need a game, every time we go out with him on the mound, we have a chance to win," said Guillen of Danks.

Taking the series finale gave Chicago sole possession of second place in the American League Central and moved the club within four games of idle Detroit for the division's top spot. Their four-game losing streak came to an end and in this stretch of 20 games in 20 days, the White Sox improved to 2-5.

Chicago's offensive beatdown was consistent enough for the Red Sox to turn to infielder Nick Green to start the eighth inning on the mound. Green retired Gordon Beckham on a popout to open the frame, leaving the rookie third baseman as the only White Sox starter who didn't reach base.

Green actually hurled two scoreless innings, although he did walk three. It was the only blemish on an otherwise important victory for the White Sox, as they move to New York to face the Yankees beginning Friday night for the second leg of their 11-game road trip.

"Francona found another guy to help him in the bullpen," said Guillen with a laugh of Green. "This win was very important. Hopefully, this game helps us to swing the bat the way we did today and see what happens."

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

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