After surviving a 19-hit attack Saturday night, the White Sox might have to postpone plans to pull Javier Vazquez sooner than expected in Sunday's series finale.
That's because the Sox needed five relievers to hold on for a 13-11 victory over Baltimore in a game that lasted 3 hours 46 minutes in 97-degree heat.
A.J. Pierzynski had the first five-hit game of his career as the Sox (61-41) won consecutive games for the first time since winning three straight from the Orioles on July 4-6.
But the Sox nearly blew all of a seven-run lead as starting pitcher Jon Garland (11-3) coped with a sinus infection and the bullpen was ineffective. The top of the Sox's fifth was the only half inning that either team failed to put a runner on base.
"It was a really bad game," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "When you score 13 runs and have your closer on the mound, it's not a good sign. Good thing we won and swung the bat well."
Nevertheless, the Sox welcomed the return of the offense without slugger Paul Konerko, who was sitting because of a badly bruised left shin.
And Baltimore was the perfect victim. The last time the Sox scored 13 was in a blanking of the Orioles on the 4th of July.
Their seven-run rally in the third marked the first time they scored five or more in an inning since July 6 against Baltimore. The Sox retook the AL wild-card lead and hold a half-game edge on the Yankees.
Jermaine Dye and Pierzynski hit back-to-back homers in the fourth, marking the first time the Sox accomplished this feat since that twosome did it July 6.
"It was a matter of time before we scored runs, and we did it," Guillen said. "We did it when we needed [at the end of the game], even when we were up. It sounds good when you do that. We got the clutch hitting, and right now we're swinging the bat better."
Pierzynski took special satisfaction in his first five-hit game because each of his first four hits drove in runs. Jim Thome reached base five times and scored three times on Pierzynski singles. Pierzynski raised his average 10 points to .314.
The Sox were 8-for-14 with runners in scoring position, and Joe Crede and Tadahito Iguchi delivered two-out RBI hits in the final two innings that were essential because of the ineffectiveness of Mike MacDougal and Bobby Jenks, who escaped a jam when he induced Jay Gibbons to ground into a double play in the ninth.
Garland was pulled after allowing a walk and double in the sixth and was charged with six runs. But the Sox's expectations for him weren't demanding because of his weeklong illness.
"I've thrown sick before, but [because of the] medication you can't really feel your body and how good or bad you feel," Garland said.
The Sox collectively felt nervous as Ramon Hernandez launched a drive to deep center with the bases loaded off Brandon McCarthy. But Brian Anderson made the catch near the top of the fence to end the sixth.
"There were a ton of hits, a ton of runners, a ton of walks, a ton of [stuff] going on out there," Pierzynski summed up.
The Sox will try to sweep the series with Vazquez, who has blown leads in the sixth inning of his last two starts and has allowed opponents to hit .382 against him after the second time around in the order.
"We have [David] Riske for two innings, and hopefully Javier can pitch five or six," Guillen said.