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This time bullpen picks up the slack
The offense remained inconsistent. The defense was questionable.
The White Sox bullpen, however, provided the biggest bandage Friday night as five relievers combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings to hold on for a 5-4 victory over the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers.
Closer Bobby Jenks capped the performance when he snapped a curve past Gary Sheffield for a called third strike with the tying run on third to end the game and give the Sox their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Darin Erstad's game-winning single in the seventh gave Nick Masset his first major-league victory. Masset, the first of five relievers, bailed fellow rookie John Danks out of a jam in the fifth.
"Just to get that first win meant a tremendous amount to me and my family," said Masset, who received a traditional beer shower from his teammates to celebrate.
"We're doing the best we can to get everyone fired up and be ready to pitch every day. Everyone is doing such a great job right now with the type of pitching, and [manager] Ozzie Guillen is doing a great job of putting us in the right situation."
The Sox bullpen has posted a 2.58 ERA in its last 13 games and has allowed only two home runs in 38 1/3 innings.
"There was a lot of speculation and high hopes for this bullpen since spring training," left-hander Matt Thornton said. "We were excited about what was going to happen, and our bullpen has stabilized by throwing strikes, attacking hitters, making them put the ball in play and trusting our defense.
"We're doing a good job right now. The pitching staff, in general, is picking it up."
The Sox's pitching staff has posted a 2.75 ERA during that 13-game stretch to compensate for an inconsistent offense.
"We have an unbelievable offense that isn't doing what it did last year, from what I saw," Thornton said. "We just have to pick them up, and there will be days where we give up nine and they score 15. It's a good feeling right now."
There also was a feeling of relief.
"I think we did a lot of stuff to lose the game too," Guillen said. "We missed a popup, we had the bases loaded and scored only two runs. We had a man on third with less than two outs and didn't score. A lot of negative things, but in the meanwhile, we keep pitching well."
Shortstop Juan Uribe retreated to shallow left-center and waved his arms, but he admitted later that he never saw the ball that resulted in a game-tying double in the fifth that cost left-hander Danks a chance for his first major-league win.
"Toby [Hall] said he's going to buy me a horseshoe to hang on the wall," said Danks, who received his first two runs of support on homers from Uribe and Tadahito Iguchi. "We'll figure it out."
Uribe's homer in the third snapped an 0-for-14 slump. Paul Konerko snapped a 4-for-33 rut with a game-tying two-run single off reliever Jason Grilli in the sixth.
Darin Erstad had two hits, including the winner, to end a 3-for-38 skid.
"I'll take anything right now," Erstad said. "When you don't feel good, you battle for anything. You have to find a way to get through it, and we did."
The bullpen has made a believer out of Erstad, who came to the Sox in January as a free agent from the Los Angeles Angels, who have one of the majors' strongest bullpens led by closer Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields.
"Fantastic," Erstad said of the Sox's bullpen. "It's not just one or two guys. They're all good. In this game you have to have a good bullpen, and we're fortunate to have that."