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With loss, Sox tied for last in Central
Rookie Danny Richar hit his first major-league home run Friday night -- a grand slam.
But it wasn't enough to prevent the leakage caused by Jose Contreras in his return to the rotation in the White Sox's 5-4 loss at Seattle.
Although Contreras' fastball was clocked in the 94-m.p.h. range during his seven innings, he experienced a series of setbacks as the Sox lost their season-high sixth straight game and dropped into a tie for last place in the American League Central.
"So many bad things happen to this kid this season," manager Ozzie Guillen said after Contreras (6-15) lost his eighth consecutive game as a starter. "But I like what I see. He threw better. His velocity is up. He threw more strikes. But it's the same problem. We woke up late in the game."
Longtime Sox nemesis Raul Ibanez hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and he added a single during the Mariners' two-run fifth. Ibanez is batting .480 (12-for-25) with three homers against the Sox this season.
Contreras also committed a two-base throwing error on Ichiro Suzuki's bunt that set up Jose Vidro's sacrifice fly. Contreras will make his next start Wednesday against Kansas City.
The five-run deficit virtually wiped out any chance of closer Bobby Jenks attempting to break the major-league record of 41 consecutive batters retired, which he shares with San Francisco's Jim Barr (in 1972).
Richar's slam, however, was a pleasant development for the Sox, one day after general manager Ken Williams stressed the importance of working deeper counts in a meeting with his players.
Williams slammed his fist and left his press box seat after Richar hit a weak grounder to third with Scott Podsednik on third in the fifth.
But in the seventh Darin Erstad, Podsednik and even Juan Uribe worked Seattle starter Miguel Batista for consecutive walks that resulted in Batista getting lifted after 108 pitches.
On a 2-2 count, Richar launched a homer over the right-field fence off left-handed reliever George Sherrill. Previously Sherrill had allowed one homer in 70 at-bats against lefties, who were batting .143 against him.
Contreras came back to finish the seventh, punctuated by his strikeout of Jose Guillen on a 93-m.p.h. fastball.
The Sox nearly got Contreras (6-15) off the hook in the ninth when Uribe drew a walk off closer J.J. Putz and moved up on Richar's sacrifice bunt and Owens' groundout.
Josh Fields drew a walk, but Putz struck out Alex Cintron, who pinch-ran for Jim Thome in the eighth, to end the game.
Despite the loss, Contreras agreed that his 2 1/2 week break from the rotation helped him.
"With the five extra days, it helped me out," said Contreras, who made two relief appearances since his July 31 start at New York. "It gave me more time to work on my mechanics and strengthen my shoulder.
"I'm working with my legs more, pushing (toward the mound). The extra days off also helped with that. I'm throwing the ball harder with my legs."
There's a lot at stake for the Sox and Contreras on a short-term and long-term basis. According to a Sports Illustrated report, Contreras cleared waivers last week. That paved the way for any team to make a deal with the Sox for him.
The New York Mets had strong interest in Contreras before he suffered a seven-game losing streak starting in late June. The Los Angeles Dodgers, trying to stay in playoff contention, were believed to be fearful of the $20 million owed Contreras through 2008-09.
But Philadelphia, which also is competing for playoff berth, has had a scout follow the Sox from Oakland to Seattle on this recent trip.
"I feel good, being back in the rotation and throwing every fifth day," Contreras said.