It was yet another bad start for the Chicago White Sox's pitching staff. Only this time, there was an unexpectedly strong finish.
The White Sox scored four runs in the first inning, then held off a Pittsburgh comeback with Ray Durham's go-ahead homer in the sixth to win 5-4 Monday night as their bullpen finished with six scoreless innings.
Chicago survived a wildly ineffective start by Tom Fordham, who left without retiring a batter, to win its second in seven games and avoid falling 16 games under .500.
"I did not enjoy that game," White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. "We missed a sign here and there but we held on, that's the good thing. If you lose a game like this, you've got a lot of things working against you because you've used so many (six) pitchers."
The White Sox's two highest-paid players Albert Belle and Frank Thomas make more than Pittsburgh's entire 25-man roster, yet they were 0-3 in interleague play against the Pirates until Monday.
Fordham, making his first start of the season and second of his career, walked all three batters he faced and threw only three of 16 pitches for strikes. But Carlos Castillo (3-4) wriggled out of the jam by allowing only one run, and went on to pitch five innings for the victory.
"I only had five warmup pitches in the bullpen, so I felt like I was throwing 80 mph when I got in there," Castillo said. "I've been out there just about every time possible the ninth, the first, the fifth. I take it the same way; I just try to get outs."
Bob Howry, Bill Simas, Keith Foulke and Matt Karchner followed Castillo with a scoreless inning apiece, with Karchner working the ninth for his ninth save.
It was a much-needed strong outing for a White Sox staff whose 5.75 ERA is by far the worst in the majors.
The White Sox scored only two runs in the first and last innings of the series while being swept in three games in Three Rivers Stadium last season. But they scored twice that many in the first inning.
Rookie Mike Caruso started it with a one-out triple, his ninth hit in four games, and Thomas walked ahead of run-scoring singles by Belle and Robin Ventura and Mike Cameron's two-out RBI double.
The Pirates made it 4-4 in the third on Kevin Young's two-run homer, his 16th, and rookie Aramis Ramirez's RBI double. But Castillo wound up the winner when Durham hit his seventh homer, a two-out shot that was the only run allowed by reliever Elmer Dessens (2-2) in 4 1-3 innings.
"As well as he pitched, you'd think he would come up with the victory," Pirates manager Gene Lamont said.
Durham was in a 3-for-26 slump until he singled and homered in successive at-bats.
"I've been struggling a little bit the last two weeks, so I'm just glad to hit a bal hard," Durham said. "I'm not even thinking whether it went out of the park or not."
Right fielder Magglio Ordonez preserved the lead with a sliding catch of Jason Kendall's sinking line drive with two on and two out in the eighth. The Pirates stranded 11 runners, seven in the final four innings.
"We came back, but they still won the game," Jose Guillen said. "They had a different pitcher (in each of the last four innings), but it didn't make any difference. You still go up there trying to get good pitches to hit."
Just like Fordham, Pirates starter Francisco Cordova had a rough outing, walking four and giving up four runs on six hits over 3 1-3 innings in his shortest and least successful start of the season.
Cordova's four walks were as many as he had in his previous six starts, and it was only the fifth time in his 16 starts he has allowed more than two runs.
Notes: The Pirates' Al Martin struck out as a pinch-hitter and is 6-for-53 (.113) in his last 19 games. ... The Pirates have averaged 31,826 for their 13 interleague home games. ... Belle was only 6-for-38 before his single. ... According to the National Weather Service, it has rained before or during 31 of the Pirates' 41 home games. It was partly cloudy and warm Monday with a gametime temperature of 91.
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