Buehrle leads White Sox past Pirates
Southpaw goes seven strong innings, snags ninth win
PITTSBURGH -- Mark Buehrle knows the hazard of games like Tuesday's.Games that fans mark as wins before a pitch is thrown. Games against teams like the Pirates, who came in with the National League's worst record and riding an 11-game skid. "I don't like facing teams like this," Buehrle said. "We're expected to win. They're expected to lose. ... I'd rather pitch against the Yankees or the Red Sox than these guys, because they've lost so many in a row. It's almost like they're due for a win." It didn't come on Tuesday, as Buehrle pitched like his typical big-game self in Chicago's 4-2 win over the Pirates at PNC Park. The streaking Sox have won 10 of 11. In bleak contrast, Pittsburgh dropped its 12th straight, equaling the club's modern-day streak of futility set in 1939. Buehrle held the Pirates to two runs over seven innings and strengthened his case in a big way to be back here at next month's Midsummer Classic. He upped his mark to 9-4, pulling into a tie for second among the league's win leaders and lowered his ERA to 3.22, fifth best in the league. As for whether the start cemented a spot for Buehrle in Pittsburgh on July 11? "He's got good enough numbers to go there," manager Ozzie Guillen said. No need to dwell on it, though, Buehrle said. "If I am, good," he said. "If not, I'm going to enjoy my time at home. I'm not going to think about that. I've got other stuff to worry about." Like Tuesday and its potential pitfalls for a team that has at times played down to its competition this season. Guillen knew the dilemma all too well. "I like that team," Guillen said. "You don't fall asleep on these guys." And from the outset, it was clear they weren't as they opened the game with three straight singles. Jim Thome, who started at first base in place of Paul Konerko against the right-handed Ian Snell, came through with the first of his two run-scoring hits. And Rob Mackowiak wasn't about to be left out in his Steel City homecoming, adding the first of his two hits. Mackowiak, who was drafted by Pittsburgh and spent five years playing for the Pirates, returned to PNC Park for the first time since he was traded in the offseason for Damaso Marte. The once fan favorite was loudly cheered before his first at-bat. Of course, that may also have been because nearly half of the crowd was cheering for the White Sox, making the noise generated by hits indistinguishable between the teams.
The White Sox battered Pirates pitching for 15 hits. That they scored only four runs -- and committed a series of baserunning gaffes -- off those hits proved to be of little concern afterward. It was just one of those nights, and those nights can happen with a staff like Chicago's."With our pitching, they put us in situations to win a lot of games, and if we can just be a little consistent on offense, we're going to put some runs up for them," Thome said. "It's unbelievable," Mackowiak said. "They go seven, eight innings every night." And with the bullpen becoming stronger and stronger, the White Sox are increasingly looking like a team without a weakness. On Tuesday, Brandon McCarthy and Bobby Jenks pitched a perfect eighth and ninth inning, respectively. For Jenks, it was his 14th straight converted save and his 23rd overall. For Chicago, it was another win. And one, perhaps, just as impressive as any of their five wins against the Astros or the Cardinals last week. "We had a good homestand there, and it's good to get on the road here and get this first one," Thome said. "Hopefully, it'll build a little momentum."
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.