CLEVELAND -- Jose Contreras feels like a complete pitcher again. The command, the fastball, the bite on his nasty forkball, it's all as good as ever.
"I've got it back," he said.Contreras, demoted to the minor leagues earlier this season after an 0-5 start, pitched eight superb innings for his third win since his return to the majors as the Chicago White Sox won their fifth straight, 6-2 over the lifeless Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night.
Why Jose Contreras Won
• Indians hitters went 1-19 with six strikeouts vs. non-fastballs.
• Threw non-fastballs for a strike 70 percent of the time.
• Hitters just 1-for-17 when Contreras was ahead in the count. (4-for-12 in other counts).
• Pitched away: Retired 16 of 17 hitters on pitches away, including four strikeouts.
-- ESPN Stats and Information
Contreras (3-7) improved to 3-2 with a 2.17 ERA since being recalled on June 8 from Triple-A Charlotte, a month-long demotion prompted by the 37-year-old's ragged start. The right-hander, who was just 1-6 in his previous 10 road starts, had little trouble with the Indians.Contreras allowed two runs and five hits, pitching into the eighth for the fourth time since being recalled. He struck out eight and walked one. He's 4-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his last five starts against Cleveland."We've seen it before," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Contreras, who won 28 games in 2005-06. "That time in the minor leagues was great. He's in a groove right now."As are the Sox.Ramon Castro, who has served as Contreras' personal catcher since arriving in a trade, hit a three-run homer off Jeremy Sowers (2-6) in a four-run sixth as Chicago improved to 12-4 since June 13 and moved within three games of first-place Detroit in the AL Central.The White Sox completed their first three-game sweep of Cleveland since the final weekend of the 2005 season, when they knocked the Indians out of the playoff race.Cleveland has dropped five in a row, 13 of 15 and the Indians' slide into obscurity shows no signs of ending anytime soon.Manager Eric Wedge, whose job security has gotten shaky, is pleased the team will be off Thursday before opening a three-game series with Oakland."We're in a little bit of a rut right now," he said. "We have to make sure we come in here expecting good things to happen."Sowers ran into a familiar problem in the sixth inning: the sixth inning.The left-hander has had trouble getting outs his third time through a lineup and the White Sox tagged him for four runs and five hits to open a 5-1 lead.Jim Thome and Paul Konerko hit consecutive singles before Castro, batting .105 since being acquired from the New York Mets in May, drove Sowers' first pitch over the fence in right to make it 4-1. Jayson Nix followed with a double and scored on Gordon Beckham's single."They were having quality at-bats," Sowers said. "They were doing a good job of hitting what I was throwing. Some of the pitches could have been better, but they're swinging the bats well right now."Castro hasn't shown much power since coming over from the NL, but Guillen know it's there."That guy has some pop," Guillen said. "He's a strong kid. He can hit it a long way."Cleveland closed within 5-2 in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Victor Martinez and Shin Soo-Choo.The Indians came in hitting just .218 (12 of 55) in the previous two games and scored only 11 runs in the past four. They took their first lead of the series in the second, but missed a chance to have a big inning against Contreras.Jamey Carroll singled and Ben Francisco, in a 4-for-37 slide, doubled to put runners at second and third with nobody out. However, Contreras struck out Asdrubal Cabrera and gave up Grady Sizemore's RBI groundout before retiring Martinez on a fly ball to left.The White Sox tied it in the fifth on Alexei Ramirez's two-out RBI single.
Ramirez left in the middle of the eighth with an injured right middle finger. Guillen said his shortstop injured it on Tuesday. Ramirez will sit out Thursday's game in Kansas City and Guillen said it was likely Ramirez will have X-rays. ... The Indians have been swept five times this season. ... Thome recorded his 1,600th walk, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Stan Musial for 12th on the career list. Next up is Darrell Evans (1,605). ... The Indians received favorable reports on RHP Fausto Carmona, who had his second straight strong minor league start Tuesday. The former 19-game winner is trying to get back to the majors. Wedge said there is no timetable on Carmona's return, but the club has been encouraged by his progress. ... Cleveland has used a major league-high 25 pitchers.