Jose Contreras won the first game of the Chicago White Sox’s sweep of the Boston Red Sox in last year’s AL division series. Now, with his long winning streak on the line, Contreras will try to help the White Sox avoid a sweep by the Red Sox as the first series of the season between the teams concludes Sunday.
David Ortiz continued his tear Saturday, hitting his 31st homer, and the Red Sox (53-32) used timely two-out hitting to beat the White Sox 9-6.
Unless Ortiz is rested with the All-Star game coming up, Contreras (9-0, 3.31 ERA) will face one of the league’s hottest hitters as he looks to win his 18th straight decision—and help Chicago (56-31) avoid its first sweep of the season.
Ortiz went 2-for-4 in Game 1 of last year’s ALDS, but is batting only .214 (3-for-14) in the regular season against Contreras.
In his last start, Contreras allowed six hits and struck out three in 6 2-3 innings as the White Sox beat Baltimore 13-0 on Tuesday.
The All-Star’s last regular season loss came Aug. 15 against the Twins. During his streak, Contreras has a 2.86 ERA in 23 starts. He’s tied with Johan Santana for the second-longest streak in baseball over the last 20 years.
“You are going to lose one day, that’s just part of (the game). But when I go out to the mound I always think in my head and my heart that I’m going to win,” Contreras said through an interpreter after his victory over the Orioles. “Wouldn’t it be great if I never lost? That would make for some story. The loss is going to come, hopefully later than sooner.”
If it comes Sunday, it will be Contreras’ first at U.S. Cellular Field this season. The right-hander is 6-0 with a 2.43 ERA in eight home starts in 2006, and 15-6 with a 3.34 in 32 career starts at the stadium.
Other than October’s win over Boston, though, Contreras has struggled against the Red Sox. He gave up two runs in 7 2-3 innings of the 14-2 victory in Game 1 of the ALDS, but is 2-4 with an 11.67 ERA in seven regular season appearances against Boston.
Ortiz, who became the first Red Sox player to reach 30 homers before the All-Star break in Friday night’s 7-2 Boston win, hit a two-run shot to center Saturday that broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth. The homer was his eighth in eight games over a span of only 27 at-bats, and Ortiz’s 150th with the Red Sox, good for 15th place on the team’s career list.
“I don’t want to stop,” Ortiz said. “Hopefully I’ll go like that the rest of the way.”
In Game 3 of last year’s playoff matchup, Orlando Hernandez escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the series finale to help the White Sox go on to the three-game sweep. A similar effort by the Red Sox’s bullpen Saturday has Boston on the verge of returning the favor.
Trailing 8-5, Chicago loaded the bases on a single and two walks in the seventh, and had the middle of the order coming up. But Javier Lopez struck out Jim Thome, and Craig Hansen came on to retire Paul Konerko on a foul to right and Jermaine Dye on a soft liner to shortstop.
In addition to a hot Red Sox lineup, Contreras will be opposed by Curt Schilling (10-3, 3.63), who will look to move into a tie for the major league lead in wins. Toronto’s Roy Halladay and the New York Mets’ Tom Glavine, two of five pitchers with 11 victories, are also scheduled to start Sunday.
Schilling lost for the first time since May 10 on Tuesday, 9-6 to Tampa Bay. The right-hander allowed four runs and nine hits, including a season high-tying three home runs, along with seven strikeouts in a 9-6 defeat.
Boston’s Manny Ramirez, who withdrew from the All-Star game Friday because of a sore knee, had two doubles, a single and a walk Saturday.