Mark Buehrle makes a habit of pitching as though he has a cab waiting with the meter running.

But Tuesday night, Buehrle pitched as though he was a man on fire and he was, in a way.

White Sox trainer Herm Schneider usually rubs some hot salve on Buehrle's left arm when he gives him his pregame rubdown. Tuesday they turned it up a notch.

"I put a little extra hot stuff on my arm and I couldn't stand still," Buehrle said. "It was so hot I had to come in from warming up and put some [cooling lotion] and wet towels on there. It felt like I had second degree burns on my skin."

It may not have been comfortable, but Buehrle turned in his best outing in a month as the Sox moved into first by one percentage point in the American League Central Division with a 6-2 victory at the Metrodome. The game lasted just 2 hours and 4 minutes.

Buehrle said he told the umpires "it's going to be an hour-and-15-minute game today because I'm not standing still out there. It burned that bad. I was trying to work extra fast."

The Sox have won four of five games at the Metrodome this season, outscoring the Twins 42-23.

"When you are in a pennant race, every game is big," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Every time you come to Minnesota and win a game, it's big. [The Twins] know how to play the game and they go and battle."

Buehrle allowed two run on eight hits in eight innings. He didn't walk anyone and struck out seven while improving to 8-2.

In his previous four outings, Buehrle had allowed 24 runs in 28 innings.

"It's about time since it's been a monthsince I've done anything for this team to help them," Buehrle said. "Today I came out there and did something for them."

Buehrle retired the first seven men he faced in about five minutes before rookie catcher Joe Mauer singled in the third inning. The only time he was in trouble was in the fourth when Corey Koskie homered and Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer had back-to-back singles.

The Sox scored five of their six runs after two were out, the biggest coming on Juan Uribe's two-run home run in the seventh inning.

"That's what it takes to win games," said shortstop Jose Valentin, who homered in the fourth inning. "Clutch hits."

Timo Perez is doing a nice impersonation of Magglio Ordonez, collecting three hits Tuesday including a two-out RBI double in the ninth for an insurance run.

Shingo Takatsu pitched the ninth, extending his scoreless streak to 261/3 innings, the 10th longest in team history.

Since losing the first two games of the season series, the Sox have won five of the last six.

"It's always good to come out and win the first game [of a series]," Valentin said. "We came here to try to get ahead [in the division]. You have to come here and just send a message right away."

The Sox will try to put an exclamation point on that message Wednesday night when Freddy Garcia makes his debut.

"With Freddy here, hopefully he can get everybody pumped up," Guillen said. "That happened last year with the Marlins when they got Dontrelle Willis, that picked everyone up."

The Sox were afraid of a letdown after their emotional series with the Cubs over the weekend and Buehrle said the intensity has to remain high.

"We can't let down, we have two more games against these guys," Buehrle said. "We'd like to sweep them, but if not, at least win the series. Freddy is going tomorrow so we like our chances."

Professional athletes are a notoriously superstitious lot so, after having his best outing while nearly burning himself, it would be natural for Buehrle to stick with the same super hot salve Sunday when he faces the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

No chance.

"I didn't realize it was that hot," Buehrle said. "I learned my lesson."