BOSTON -- Ryan Dempster appears to be the odd man out of the Boston Red Sox rotation once Clay Buchholz returns from his long stay on the disabled list.
But Friday night, Dempster, pitching for the first time since being suspended for hitting Alex Rodriguez on Aug. 18, worked a solid 6 1/3 innings in leading the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
"No, I'm just going to try and do my best the best I can," Dempster said when asked if he's thinking about what might be coming for him, with Buchholz projected to return Sept. 10 at Tampa Bay . "We'll cross that bridge when we get there."
Dempster, who served a five-game suspension for the plunking of A-Rod and was pushed back with extra time, won for the first time since July 27. He came in with a 6.81 ERA over his last six starts, a 7.84 ERA over his last four. After working on things in the bullpen during his down time, he yielded three runs on five hits.
The night started poorly for him, with walks to the first two batters. But Dempster got Alexei Ramirez to hit into a double play and struck out Adam Dunn.
He didn't allow a hit through the first four innings and limited damage in the fifth, when he had first and third and nobody out.
"I thought the biggest pitch he made of the night was the ground ball double play to Ramirez in the first," said Boston manager John Farrell.
Said White Sox manager Robin Ventura: "He was good. That's what veteran guys do."
David Ortiz snapped an 0-for-23 spell with a two-run single in a three-run fourth inning, and the sizzling Shane Victorino had two hits, an RBI and two runs scored to back Dempster (7-9).
"David Ortiz, his career speaks for itself," said Farrell. "He's the cornerstone of our lineup, with him sitting in the middle of it."
Ortiz, who also walked twice, matched his longest Red Sox hitless streak before delivering the big hit. He had eight strikeouts in the 23 outs.
"I told you guys last night, don't worry about me," Ortiz said. "Start worrying about me when I go up to the plate with no bat."
Avisail Garcia, the young right fielder the White Sox got from the Tigers in the three-way deadline deal that sent Jake Peavy from Chicago to Boston and shortstop Jose Iglesias from Boston to Detroit, had two hits, including his second homer in as many games. It was a solo shot leading off the seventh, and Dempster was gone after a long one-out single by Dayan Viciedo, who drove in the other White Sox run.
Junichi Tazawa relieved and got an out before Alejandro De Aza tripled to make it 4-3. After Franklin Morales got Dunn for the second out of the eighth, Koji Uehara finished it off with a four-out save, his 15th save of the season (in 18 chances). He struck out two in the ninth.
It was Uehara's 20th straight scoreless outing, covering 23 innings. It was his second four-out save in less than a week (the third save of his career of at least four outs), but he threw only 17 pitches, 14 for strikes.
Farrell said he's never had a closer be on this kind of roll, and he was the pitching coach when Jonathan Papelbon was with the team.
Left-hander Hector Santiago (4-8) threw 101 pitches, only 52 for strikes, and lasted just 3 2/3 innings in absorbing the loss, only the third in the last 13 games for the White Sox.
"They're gonna keep battling," Ventura said of his players. "We had some opportunities early but didn't do anything with them."
Mike Napoli drew a bases-loaded walk in the second inning and Victorino singled home a run before Ortiz's hit. The inning was set up by Will Middlebrooks' first stolen base of the year.
NOTES: Buchholz, out since June 8 with neck and shoulder trouble, made the second of what is slated to be three rehab starts Friday night in Pawtucket. He threw 53 pitches in 3 1/3 innings, allowing a run on seven hits against Syracuse. He struck out two and walked none. He was back in the Red Sox dugout by the middle of the game. The plan is for him to work again next Wednesday, likely at Pawtucket. ... Dunn is 5-for-43 in his last 11 games. ... The loss snapped Chicago's six-game road winning streak ... Peavy faces his old team Saturday night, with LHP John Danks working for Chicago. ... The Red Sox were reportedly looking to add righty relief and backup middle infield help at Saturday's waiver deal trade deadline. ... Representatives from all the local college hockey teams were introduced on the field before the game. Fenway Park will host Frozen Fenway outdoor hockey games, a pair of double-headers in early January.