The White Sox had only five hits Friday night, but four of them were home runs. Jose Valentin hit two and Frank Thomas and Carl Everett belted one apiece.
That was the victory formula for the muscle-flexing first-place Sox as they beat the Texas Rangers 7-1 before 36,311 fans at U.S. Cellular Field.
The victory was the Sox's fifth in a row, and it improved their record to 68-61, a season-best seven games above .500. They are one game ahead of Kansas City and 1½ ahead of Minnesota, which lost to the Royals 3-2.
"Our lineup, Nos. 1 through 9, has guys who are going to hit home runs," Valentin said. "You stick to your plan, then look for your pitch, then put a good swing on it."
Valentin hit his 20th homer of the season with two runners on base in the second inning for a 3-0 Sox lead. He ended the scoring with his 21st homer in the eighth, after Everett had hit his 24th.
The Sox beat big-league baseball's hottest team and its hottest hitter. The Rangers went into the game with an August record of 15-5, best in the majors. Alex Rodriguez, who had homered in each of his last five games, had 12 homers and 25 RBIs in the month, also big-league highs.
The Sox's three home run hitters shared the fans' cheers with two pitchers. Neal Cotts, a 23-year-old rookie left-hander, earned his first major-league victory. Veteran reliever Scott Sullivan, obtained by trade from the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, relieved Cotts in the sixth, stranded three runners, struck out three and pitched two scoreless, hitless innings.
"That first homer definitely helped," Cotts said. "You're thankful and grateful anytime you can get ahead at the start. I dreamed all my life just of getting here. Now I'm here, and I have my first victory."
Cotts led 4-1 after five innings. But when the first two Rangers reached base in the sixth, manager Jerry Manuel called on Sullivan, a right-hander with an effective sidearm delivery.
Sullivan retired the side without yielding a run or a hit. The crowd roared its approval as he struck out Michael Young with the bases loaded for the third out.
"There never was any question about whether we would hitjust when," Manuel said.
After Texas starter Juan Dominguez walked Everett and Paul Konerko in the second inning, he got ahead of Valentin 1-2. Then Valentin homered over the right-field wall for a 3-0 lead.
Thomas made it 4-0 in the third when he lined a 2-1 pitch from Dominguez several rows into the seats in left-center for a solo homer, his 32nd of the season.
Cotts tempted fate when he walked Rafael Palmeiro and Shane Spencer to begin the fourth. Pitching coach Don Cooper came to the mound and spoke briefly to the rookie. Cotts then retired the next three batters on routine flies.
The Rangers cut the lead to 4-1 in the fifth. With two out, Marcus Thames blooped a single to right and Rodriguez doubled to right, scoring Thames.
The Sox scored an unearned run for a 5-1 lead in the sixth before Everett and Valentin ended the scoring. "We went into first place two times [before], but we didn't stay there," Valentin said. "The way we're playing and feeling right now, I think we can hold on this third time and separate ourselves from the other teams."
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