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Contreras gives White Sox big lift against Twins

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Pitching is what put the Chicago White Sox in
first place, and Jose Contreras is trying his best to keep them
there.

Contreras gave the struggling White Sox eight strong innings in
a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, helping Chicago
maintain a 3½-game lead in the AL Central heading into a critical
series with second-place Cleveland.

"This kid, the last two weeks, every time we need it he goes
out and does a tremendous job," manager Ozzie Guillen said, later
declaring Contreras his best current starter in a rotation that
includes Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle.

The White Sox scored four runs in this three-game series at the
Metrodome and somehow won twice, raising their record in one-run
games this year to 32-17. The Twins are 27-29 in one-run decisions.

"We know we have 11 guys on our staff that can go out and make
outs," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "They continue to keep us in
games, and we continue to score enough runs to find a way to win."

Second baseman Nick Punto misplayed Jermaine Dye's two-out
grounder for an error in the eighth against Juan Rincon (6-6),
allowing Chicago to take the lead and Contreras (13-7) to win his
sixth straight start.

Damaso Marte got the first two outs in the ninth, and Bobby
Jenks finished for his third save. After losing two of three at
lowly Kansas City starting the week, the White Sox took home a
little confidence into a three-game series with the Indians that
begins Monday.

"We're going through a tough time right now," Dye said, "but
a win is a win and we'll take it."

Chicago still has the league's best record (90-58) with 14 games
remaining despite a 22-23 mark since Aug. 1. The White Sox finish
the season with a three-game series at the Indians (87-62), who
lead the New York Yankees by 1½ games in the wild-card race.

Paul Konerko and Pierzynski hit consecutive two-out singles in
the eighth, and Dye hit a bouncer that Punto tried to backhand
unsuccessfully -- allowing pinch-runner Ross Gload to score from
second.

That's all Contreras needed. He gave up one run and five hits
with two walks and improved to 9-2 since the All-Star break.

"I don't feel like I'm the best, but every time I go out there
I'm going to do my best," the Cuban-born right-hander said through
an interpreter.

The Twins helped him out with bad baserunning. Punto led off
with a triple in the third and couldn't score. Hesitating when
Jason Bartlett grounded to second, he broke too late for the plate
and was easily thrown out by Konerko from first base.

Minnesota then got three straight singles in the fourth, the
last by Jacque Jones to drive in Jason Tyner. Lew Ford bunted,
hopped over the ball in front of the plate and then stopped --
believing it was foul. Pierzynski picked it up to start an easy
2-5-4 double play, and Ford was benched an inning later.

"You don't run that ball out, you have to come out of the
ballgame," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Minnesota, nearing elimination from postseason contention and an
end to its streak of three straight division titles, plays a
four-game series at Chicago next weekend.

Small consolation for a team that's still struggling mightily to
generate any offense, but the chance to knock their biggest rival
out of the lead gives the Twins some incentive.

"We're still out there battling and putting pressure on them,"
said Kyle Lohse, whose start lasted only five innings because of a
sore ring finger. He threw 92 pitches, allowing one run on Aaron
Rowand's two-out RBI single in the fourth after Konerko walked and
Pierzynski was hit by a pitch.

Lohse has allowed two runs in 12 innings since the conflict that
developed between him and Gardenhire following his removal from a
rough outing against Texas on Sept. 6. Upset he was taken out so
early from that game and by a subsequent comment from the manager,
Lohse damaged the door to Gardenhire's office with a bat and hurt
the finger during that tirade in the clubhouse.

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect me," Lohse said. "I
definitely felt a little uncomfortable."

Game notes
Pierzynski, a regular in Minnesota's lineup for three
seasons through 2003, forgot for a moment which team he plays for
after getting hit in the third. He flipped his bat toward the home
dugout before realizing his mistake and advancing to first with a
slight smirk. "Something that would only happen to me,"
Pierzynski said.