For the last 2 1/2 months, the Chicago White Sox have been chasing two teams in the race for first place in the AL Central.
Following a thrilling extra-inning victory, they’re now in position to cut it to one.
Behind the consistently solid Mark Buehrle(notes), the White Sox look to move percentage points ahead of Cleveland and into second place - a spot they haven’t held since the second week of the season - Wednesday night against the visiting Indians.
In Tuesday’s opener, Chicago (61-60) defeated Cleveland 8-7 in 14 innings as Juan Pierre(notes) drove in Gordon Beckham(notes) from third base with an opposite-field hit. The White Sox, winners of nine of 11, pounded out a season-best 22 hits and squandered several scoring chances before Pierre’s clutch single.
“When you win games like this, you wake up the next morning feeling better,” manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Chicago could wake up Thursday morning in second place for the first time since April 12 if it can take the second game of this series.
The White Sox, 3 1/2 games back of Central-leading Detroit, appear to have the right man taking the mound to help them move out of third place for the first time since May 30.
Buehrle (10-5, 3.06 ERA) has allowed three runs or fewer in 18 straight starts, matching the club record set by Frank Smith in 1909.
The left-hander, who hasn’t given up more than three runs in a game since April 22, allowed three runs with no walks and six strikeouts in eight innings of Thursday’s 6-3 victory over Baltimore. He reached double figures in victories for an 11th straight season, extending his own franchise record.
Since losing to Minnesota on June 16, Buehrle is 4-0 with a 2.02 ERA in nine starts with the White Sox winning eight times.
“With Buehrle on the mound throwing the ball the way he has been the last few months, you feel comfortable,” Guillen said.
Buehrle’s only start of the season against the Indians (60-58) was a win on opening day, when he allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings of a 15-10 victory. He has a 5.79 ERA in his last five starts versus Cleveland, but is 2-0 with the White Sox winning each time.
Carmona has the majors’ third-worst ERA among qualifying pitchers and the White Sox have had a lot to do with that, touching him up for 18 runs in eight innings. The right-hander was pounded for a career-worst 10 runs in three innings on opening day, and was tagged for eight runs in five innings in an 8-2 loss at U.S. Cellular Field on May 19.
Carlos Quentin(notes) is 3 for 4 with two homers against Carmona this season, while Paul Konerko(notes) is 3 for 4 with a double. Konerko had four hits Tuesday and is batting .413 with two homers and seven RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak.
The Indians really can’t afford for Carmona to have another dud against the White Sox after Manny Acta had eight relief pitchers work 8 2-3 innings Tuesday.
In his last outing against Detroit on Thursday, Carmona gave up four runs and seven hits while striking out six in seven innings of a 4-3 loss.