When Javier Vazquez left the mound after the seventh inning Saturday night, manager Ozzie Guillen greeted him with some words meant more for encouragement than chastisement.
"I told him it was funny they were singing 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' and he was still on the mound," Guillen said with a hearty laugh at his own cleverness.
"I told him I was thinking the same thing," Vazquez said.
Vazquez not only made it through seven innings but also got through the eighth in a 7-1 victory over Toronto that assured the White Sox of winning their third straight series on this trip.
"From this point on," Vazquez said, "hopefully we can get to the playoffs and they can count on me."
The Sox counting on Vazquez would be something different. Until Saturday he hadn't pitched into the seventh inning since June 3 and hadn't pitch eight complete innings since April 19.
Against the Blue Jays he also allowed his fewest hits (two) and fewest runs (one) since May 29and had 13 strikeouts.
The Sox want to believe this is the real Vazquez. "We had to get him over the hump and I hope it carries over into his next 10 starts," Guillen said after the Sox had dealt Toronto its seventh straight defeat. "It's a good, positive thing. He has good enough stuff. I hope this game will help him mentally."
Vazquez's problem has been one bad inning, usually the fifth or sixth. On Saturday, he faced the minimum number of batters through four, not that unusual for him. And then
In the fifth inning, Troy Glaus led off with a homer to cut the Sox's lead to a still safe 6-1. Vazquez also gave up a single and walk in that inning before striking out the last two batters.
But it was like breaking through a barrier for him, because hethen pitched three perfect innings before giving way to David Riske.
Though Guillen's revealed his doubts in the fifth by getting Riske and Neal Cotts loose in the bullpen, Vazquez was determined to survive the sixth this time. "I wanted to stay aggressive," Vazquez said. "I had to go forward. I couldn't think anything about the past. I wasn't thinking about the [recent] numbers."
At least Vazquez had runs to work with this time.
The Sox scored a run in the first inning on Paul Konerko's single but could have had more.
In all, they had two walks, a stolen base, a wild pitch and a single in the inning.
They scored two more in the third on a Konerko fielder's-choice grounder and a Jermaine Dye triple and had three in the fifth on RBIs by Konerko, Dye and A.J. Pierzynski.
The Sox had nine hits and drew seven walks from three Toronto relievers pressed into service in front of 35,117 fans.
Konerko's four RBIs gave him 742 as a White Sox and moved him past Nellie Fox and Robin Ventura into seventh place in franchise history.
The Sox hitters have averaged seven runs in the first eight games of this tripa nice boost for a pitching staff in dire need of aid.
The most troublesome spots in the Sox rotation, Vazquez and Mark Buehrle, appear to have halted their slides for now.
"We've starting to play lately like we should be playing," Guillen said. "It's all about pitching. I don't care how many home runs we hit. If we don't pitch, we don't go anywhere."
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