Contreras, 3 HRs give weary Sox bullpen a nice break

The White Sox's starting pitching finally supplemented a resurgent hitting attack Monday night.

Jose Contreras settled down after a rocky start and gave the heavily taxed bullpen a break in an 8-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Contreras (10-3) snapped a three-game losing streak as the Sox cut their deficit to 71/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the American League Central.

"If we score five runs the way our pitching is supposed to be, we should win," manager Ozzie Guillen said.

The Sox have scored 34 runs in their last four games, including 15 in their last two, without home run leader Jim Thome, who is recovering from tendinitis in his right wrist.

The Sox haven't missed his power. They increased their league-leading home run total to 162 Monday and are hitting .351 with nine homers in their last four games.

Jermaine Dye ignited a three-run third inning with his 29th home run and his third in four games. The blast traveled an estimated 435 feet. Dye is 6-for-19 with seven RBIs in the first four games of the Sox's nine-game, three-city trip.

Second baseman Alex Cintron had three hits, including a 425-foot home run in the second.

And Joe Crede capped the three-run third with a two-run opposite-field homer to right. Crede's two hits snapped a 2-for-14 slump. Crede has four homers in 24 at-bats off Royals starter Runelvys Hernandez.

The power surge helped Contreras after he nearly gave away all of a three-run cushion in the first. Hernandez was charged with two balks, including an infraction with the bases loaded that allowed the Sox to score their second run.

Contreras' victory was the first by a Sox starter other than Jon Garland since Javier Vazquez was credited with an 11-8 win over Baltimore on July 6.

More important was the way Contreras pitched. He needed 70 pitches to get through the first four innings. Although Guillen and relievers Neal Cotts and Bobby Jenks said the bullpen was ready, relievers had been tagged for seven earned runs in their last seven innings in the last two games at Baltimore.

Monday night's game marked the first time since July 23 the Sox used only two pitchers. Brandon McCarthy pitched the final two innings.

"We were waiting for somebody to come out and help our bullpen," Guillen said.

Contreras retired 11 consecutive batters before getting tagged for a run in the sixth, and Mark Teahen, who went 4-for-11 in a weekend series at Texas, led off the seventh with a triple.

But Contreras displayed the kind of pitching that typified his 17-game winning streak. He struck out Emil Brown, induced Shane Costa to pop to first and whiffed Esteban German on a sweeping breaking pitch.

Contreras is the only Sox pitcher to throw at least seven innings in every second-half start. He threw a season-high 122 pitches, two shy of Garland's pitch count against Detroit on June 8.