Jose Contreras came to the rescue of the faltering Chicago White Sox, pitching the best game of his major league career when his team needed it most.
The former Cuban star, who's been by far Chicago's best pitcher since the All-Star break, allowed six hits in his first career complete game Friday night, lifting the White Sox to a crucial 3-1 win over the Minnesota Twins.
"Two months ago everybody wanted to kill this kid and get him out of town because he was pitching horrible," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
"Jose had always had the best arm on my team. It's a matter of time when he can use that. It's a matter of confidence. This kid won a big game for us and he showed the guys when you have confidence and throw strikes and attack the strike zone, you can win a lot of games."
The White Sox have been in first place every day of the season and led by 15 games on Aug. 1.
Runs came in the first when Jermaine Dye hit a three-run homer off Kyle Lohse. Dye had flied out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Thursday night when the White Sox lost 4-1 to the Twins in 11 innings.
Contreras (14-7) matched a season high with nine strikeouts and walked one to win his seventh straight start since an Aug. 15 loss to Minnesota. He improved to 10-2 since the All-Star break. His 14 victories are a career high.
"It's one of the best games I've pitched in my whole career as a baseball player and the best I've pitched in the US," said the veteran of international competition with the Cuban national team.
In the second half of the season, Contreras has changed his arm angle and found his control, cutting down his walks and limiting his pitch count.
The White Sox play the Twins two more times and then finish with seven on the road, including a three-game finale in Cleveland.
Lohse (9-13) allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings.
Dye's 29th homer, a two-out liner that quickly cleared the left-field fence, followed a double by leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik and a walk to Paul Konerko.
Yankees 5, Blue Jays 0
At New York, Shawn Chacon (6-3) improved to 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays this season, allowing three hits in eight inning as New York maintained a one-game lead over second-place Boston in the AL East with nine games left. The Yankees have won five straight and 11 of 12.
Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back homers off Ted Lilly (9-11) leading off a four-run first, which also included RBIs by Hideki Matsui and Tino Martinez.
Red Sox 6, Orioles 3
At Baltimore, Manny Ramirez hit his 40th homer and drove in three runs, and Boston took advantage of a key error by Miguel Tejada to hand Baltimore its sixth straight loss.
Bronson Arroyo (14-9) overcame a sluggish start to improve to 4-0 in his last five starts, allowing three runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings. Mike Timlin worked the ninth for his 10th save.
Boston scored three unearned runs off Daniel Cabrera (10-12) in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead. With two on and two outs, Ramirez hit a bouncer to deep shortstop. Tejada made a high and wide throw to first that allowed a run to score, and Trot Nixon followed with a two-run double.
Indians 7, Royals 6
At Kansas City, Missouri, Travis Hafner homered in his sixth consecutive game and Cleveland scored an unearned run in the ninth after wasting a 6-2 lead, to beat Kansas City and win for the ninth time in 10 games.