Resurgent Jose Contreras got the Chicago White Sox off to a strong start on their crucial West Coast trip with a second straight dominant performance. The White Sox hope Mark Buehrle can resume a similar turnaround Tuesday night as they continue a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Contreras threw eight innings of one-run ball for the second consecutive start Monday, defeating Los Angeles 3-2 to keep Chicago within 1 1/2 games of wild card-leading Minnesota. The right-hander had eight strikeouts and one walk—one game after striking out nine and walking one in an 8-1 victory over Boston on Wednesday.
Contreras has had big problems in the second half, following up a 9-0 mark in his first 15 starts of the season by going 2-7 over his last 11 outings before the win over the Red Sox. His ERA in his four starts prior to that game was 9.78.
“The pitching has kept us in it,” said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who had an RBI double in Chicago’s three-run fifth inning Monday. “If you look at the numbers and what the guys have done, it’s nice to see. That’s what we need. We need strong, solid starting pitching to give us a chance. We haven’t been swinging the bats as well as we think we can—myself included. But you still have to pitch. And that’s what this team is built on—pitching and defense.”
Buehrle (12-12, 4.80 ERA) appeared ready to help solidify that foundation again, going 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA over his last five starts after dropping six straight decisions between July and the start of August. The left-hander couldn’t maintain that momentum in his last outing, though, giving up five runs and 10 hits in just four innings in a 9-1 loss to Cleveland on Thursday.
“Everyone had great stats last year, and I don’t think you can expect every guy to duplicate what happened last season,” said Buehrle, who was 16-8 with a 3.12 ERA in 2005. “But we are not close to what we did last year, and that has been our downfall.”
Buehrle is 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in 11 appearances—10 starts—against the Angels. He lost to them Aug. 7, allowing six runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-3 defeat.
The left-hander was one of four Chicago starters that pitched a complete game against the Angels in last year’s ALCS, beating them 2-1 by giving up one run and five hits in a 2-1 win in Game 2.
The White Sox (83-61) will need their pitching staff to regain the form that led the team to a World Series title last season just to make the playoffs this year. With two more games against the surging Angels and three against AL West-leading Oakland on this trip, followed by a three-game home series against AL Central-leading Detroit, Chicago will hope to get strong efforts from its starters during a stretch that could go a long way toward determining their postseason fate.
The White Sox are three games behind the Tigers, who were off Monday.
Including three victories in the ALCS, Chicago has won its last seven games at Angel Stadium.
Los Angeles (77-67) will counter Buehrle with Ervin Santana (14-7, 4.53), who defeated Baltimore 8-4 on Wednesday. Santana allowed four runs and seven hits—including three homers—in seven innings.
“His stuff looked good,” said Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia, whose team is 5 1/2 games behind Oakland. “We were very pleased that he got stronger as the game went on and finished seven innings, because in the beginning it looked like it might be a little pitch count issue or he was going to have trouble getting past the middle innings because it was very hot out there.”
The right-hander has given up at least four runs in four of his last five starts.
Santana is 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in three starts against the White Sox, including 1-0 with a 5.54 ERA in two starts against them this season.