Stingy pitching helped the Chicago White Sox win the World Series last season, and it’s fueling their current run of hot play.
The defending champion White Sox send unbeaten Jose Contreras to the mound Sunday looking to extend their seven-game winning streak and sweep their three-game series against the Minnesota Twins at US Cellular Field.
The White Sox (12-5) continued their upward climb from a 4-5 start to this season on Saturday, winning 9-2 for their seventh straight victory. Chicago pitchers have held opponents to fewer than three runs in five straight and six of their past seven games.
Contreras (2-0, 1.29 ERA) is coming off Monday’s six-strikeout, one-hit 9-0 shutout win over the Kansas City Royals. Contreras was also 11-2 in the second half of last season, winning his final eight starts to help get the White Sox into the postseason, where he went 3-1.
“Since halfway through last year this guy’s probably been the best pitcher in the major leagues,” Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko said. “I don’t think anyone’s better. I’m just glad I don’t have to face him.”
Contreras threw 101 pitches in his last start, striking out a season-high six while walking one over his seven innings. He’s been at the top of his game since he changed arm angles midway through last season and began throwing more strikes.
“Throwing from the side has allowed me to find the strike zone,” Contreras said. “My confidence level is completely different than it was two years ago.”
He hasn’t lost a regular season game start since Aug. 15. He’s also 2-1 with a 2.54 career ERA against the Twins and has beaten Minnesota in two straight starts.
Contreras faces a struggling Twins (7-10) lineup that’s produced just seven runs in three games since last Wednesday’s 12-10 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Starter Carlos Silva (1-2, 7.59) will try to help the Twins stop a three-game losing streak and shake off the effects of the disappointing way he lost his last trip to the mound.
He gave up 12 hits and one homer over 8 2-3 innings in last Tuesday’s 8-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
“It’s frustrating when you give all you’ve got and you still give up eight runs,” Silva said. “When you know you have your stuff and still nothing’s working, it’s tough.”
White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome has homered in each of the past two games, upping his season total to nine after Saturday’s eighth-inning shot. Thome hit a two-run homer off Johan Santana in Friday’s series opener and is batting 3-for-7 with four RBIs in the weekend series.
Right-fielder Jermaine Dye is coming off of arguably his best game for the White Sox this season. The 2005 World Series MVP went 3-for-5, homered and drove in four runs Saturday. A traditionally slow starter who batted just .175 in April last season, Dye raised his 2006 average to .340.