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Arroyo, Red Sox feel the heat

White Sox survive 100-degree day and gain a split

CHICAGO -- Matt Clement pitched three full summers for the Cubs and lived in downtown Chicago all that time. And yet, Clement said last night, ''Three of my top 10 hottest days in Chicago were the two day games at Wrigley last month and today. And Bronson [Arroyo] pitched two of them."

It was an even 100 degrees at game time yesterday, the temperature so obscene that the White Sox public relations department announced that this was the warmest day at U.S. Cellular Field ''since at least 1994."

The unenviable task of throwing in that heat fell, of course, to Arroyo, who, in the words of catcher Jason Varitek, ''had a tough time early. He didn't have a good feel for his breaking ball."

As a result, the 28-year-old righthander was bandied about the ballpark early, the five runs he allowed through three innings all but deciding the game, which ended, 6-4, in favor of Chicago before a laudable gathering of 37,168. The win salvaged a series split for the White Sox, while Boston coughed up a 1-0 lead and a chance at taking three of four against the cream of the American League.

''They've got speed, they've got great starting pitching, they have some lefty matchups for us," Kevin Millar said, calculating the reasons behind the White Sox' 64-33 record. ''It's no secret why they've got the most wins in the big leagues."

Millar spent most of his time postgame explaining his sixth-inning misread of a ball he hit down the left-field line. With one out and the Sox behind, 5-2, Millar singled, turned for second, and was easily gunned down by Scott Podsednik, whose throw wouldn't be inaccurately described as a parabolic one-hopper.

Varitek homered two pitches later.

''Yeah, and [Millar] knew it," Terry Francona said, when asked if Millar exhibited excessive basepath zeal. ''He made a great turn . . . and then he probably should have shut it down. He knows."

Said Millar: ''I went down making an aggressive play. Second guess, I should have stayed, and we would have had a two-run home run."

Varitek's homer cut Chicago's lead to 5-3, and the magnitude of the mistake only grew as the next two Red Sox reached -- Alex Cora with a single, Tony Graffanino with a walk. Johnny Damon flied out to end what was an unfulfilling inning -- three hits and a walk but just one run.

The Cora walk ended a serviceable, if not impressive, start by Jose Contreras, who in all likelihood would land in Chicago's bullpen if the team were to deal for A.J. Burnett. As a Yankee, Contreras always languished against the Red Sox -- he went into yesterday 1-4 with a 13.50 ERA vs. Boston. But he found an early rhythm.

After surrendering a solo homer to the third batter of the game, David Ortiz, Contreras fanned Manny Ramirez with a high fastball. He got Millar with the same pitch the next inning, and his high heat set up a nasty breaking pitch, which he used to get Ramirez swinging in the fifth with a runner aboard. It was Ramirez's third whiff in as many at-bats.

''I keep hearing that we've owned Contreras in the past," Damon said. ''I don't think so. We were all pretty happy that New York traded him. His stuff is pretty amazing."

Contreras walked only two yesterday while striking out six. The Sox managed eight hits off the Cuban righty but scored only three times in his 5 2/3 innings. Arroyo (8-6, 4.26 ERA) lasted an inning longer and allowed an equivalent number of hits but was tagged for twice as many runs.

Chicago did most of its damage early -- scoring twice in the first inning, twice in the second, and once in the third. Arroyo surrendered one home run -- an opposite-field two-run blast to Tadahito Iguchi in the second on a fastball low and off the plate after Podsednik had doubled.

''[Iguchi] hit a ball that was a good pitch," Francona said. ''The ball was shooting out to that direction."

He was right. Ortiz's blast exited quickly to that part of the yard, and U.S. Cellular played notably small all weekend. Boston and Chicago combined to plate 36 runs in the four-game series, and 22 were scored via home runs, of which there were 14 (seven by each team).

Podsednik, the All-Star left fielder with 50 stolen bases, scored twice, giving him four runs scored in the series. He reached base seven times in 17 plate appearances but was caught stealing twice in four attempts.

''He just changes the whole way that offense goes about its business," Damon said. ''Last year they were pretty much like our team, just played for the big hit. I've liked his style."

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