Buehrle beats Giants with strong outing
Lefty goes 6 2/3 frames, allowing one run on seven hits
SAN FRANCISCO -- Mark Buehrle started his postgame media interview Saturday night in the visitors clubhouse at AT&T Park with strains of 'Hallelujah' being sung by injured second baseman Juan Uribe from a table just steps away.
That particular celebratory hymn aptly summed up the left-hander's first win since April 6 in Detroit, with his six-start winless streak coming to an end during a 3-1 victory over the Giants. The White Sox (22-20) took over sole possession of first place in the American League Central, thanks to Adam Dunn's walk-off home run earlier in the day against the Indians.
In order to maintain a stranglehold on the division's top spot, the South Siders will need more efforts from their staff ace such as the one he turned in Saturday. Those quality starts clearly will be aided by the sort of airtight defense flashed by the White Sox behind Buehrle (2-5).
"When we don't make the plays around him, he seems to get in trouble," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Buehrle, who allowed one run on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 5.27. "When we make the plays to help him, he always pitches great like that. We need great defense around him."
Buehrle actually put the leadoff hitter on base in five of the seven innings he started, walking three to go along with the five singles and two doubles he yielded. Three double plays, though, held the Giants (17-27) to one run.
Saturday could be classified as a complete success for the southpaw, as he picked up his third career hit and first since 2003 with a single to right off of reliever Keiichi Yabu with two outs in the seventh. Buehrle ripped a pitch down the right field line but settled at first base, even though the ball bounced at the foot of the fence.
The wind was blowing out on Saturday, but Buehrle never thought he had a chance for career home run No. 1.
"I hit it good, but it never crossed my mind," Buehrle said.
"That's the best swing we had all night," added Guillen with a laugh. "But he pitched well, and we needed this one for him."
Scoring one run each in the first, second and sixth innings, the final tally crossing on Paul Konerko's two-out single to right, the White Sox built up a two-run advantage. It could have been so much more.
They left 11 runners on base during the five innings of work from Barry Zito, who plummeted to 0-8 this season, and stranded 14 for the game.
"Zito was all over the place, but when he had to make a big pitch, he did," said Guillen of Zito, who walked six and gave up eight hits. "It's all about zeroes. It's not about how many pitches. You throw zeroes, you keep your team there. We had a lot of opportunities and couldn't pull the trigger. That's the ugliest two-run game I ever see in my life."
"He really did a great job of keeping us in the game and limiting the damage," added San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy of Zito. "It is a two-run ballgame and we just couldn't get the bats going."
Bochy's bunch found itself with one major opportunity in the seventh, as Buehrle exited with the bases loaded, after walking pinch-hitter Steve Holm. Octavio Dotel entered and needed just four pitches to fan Randy Winn, arguably the Giants' hottest hitter, officially quelling the uprising with a perfectly located 95 mph fastball at the knees.
"Everyone is pitching well down there," said Buehrle of the bullpen, after watching Scott Linebrink pick up his 11th hold and Bobby Jenks record save No. 10. "They won't do that every time. They are going to give up hits or let a run or two score, but we have to ride it as long as we can. We also have to try not to leave them in big jams like that too many times."
Two victories over the Giants represent half of the White Sox miserable 4-14 Interleague showing from the 2007 campaign. They have won four straight and enter Sunday afternoon's series finale with a chance to finish this 10-game, West Coast swing at 7-3 overall.
Getting a solid effort from Buehrle helped make the three-game sweep of the Giants a possibility. It had far greater ramifications for a pitcher who now ranks 10th on the franchise's all-time win list at 109 but had not won since the first week of the 2008 season.
"Overall, I think I've pitched pretty well and have given my team a chance to win," Buehrle said. "Out of my eight previous starts, I pitched well in five of them and for three I was terrible. I'm just trying to give us a chance to win, and that's the main thing you really can do as a starting pitcher."
"No matter what his record shows, Buehrle is Buehrle," San Francisco first baseman Rich Aurilia added. "His track record speaks for itself."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.