BOSTON -- Ryan Dempster is undefeated this season on 11 days’ rest.
Pitching for the first time since Major League Baseball suspended him five games for a pitch that struck Alex Rodriguez accidentally (Dempster’s version) or with malice aforethought (MLB’s), the veteran right-hander beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3, with some impressive help from closer Koji Uehara and a big hit from David Ortiz, who snapped an 0-for-23 skid with a two-run single.
"When you're not playing when you're not injured it's not a fun thing to do," said Dempster, who held the White Sox hitless until Paul Konerko doubled to open the fifth in winning for the second time in his last 10 starts. "I was glad I was able to get out there and just pitch a little bit better and give us a chance to win a ballgame."
Ortiz lined a two-run single to right in Boston's three-run fourth. Is the big man back?
"I've always been here," he said. "Was gone for a little bit but I told you all last night don't worry about me. Start worrying about me when I go to the plate with no bat."
He was amused when asked about the trust manager John Farrell has shown in him during his abbreviated slump.
"What else can you do?" he said. "Just because I struggle for the week, you think he'd just send me down or not play me or something like that?
"You should ... have that faith. And it's for long time. One-week struggle don't say anything about anybody. We've got plenty of players here that play every day that have been struggling longer than me. And what are they doing? Playing every day. You know what I'm saying? The way it should be. We know how to bounce back, you know?"
Ortiz said his hitless streak was due in part to his timing being off. It also was simply a matter of missing pitches, and hitting some balls right at fielders. In sum?
"Thank you for worrying," he said, "but I'll be back."
Dempster took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning, when he gave up a leadoff home run to rookie Avisail Garcia, the impressive-looking prospect the White Sox received from the Tigers in the three-way swap in which Boston acquired Jake Peavy from Chicago and shipped shortstop Jose Iglesias to Detroit.
One out later, Dempster was lifted after a wall-ball single by Dayan Viciedo. Junichi Tazawa entered and retired Josh Phegley on a liner to left, but Alejandro De Aza shot a triple into the right-field corner to make it 4-3. Gordon Beckham flied to center to leave the tying run at third.
Left-hander Franklin Morales, who hadn’t pitched in 10 days, entered to face Adam Dunn after Tazawa had retired Alexei Ramirez on a tapper to the mound, and retired the White Sox strongman on a roller to first.
Then it was Koji time. Uehara set down Konerko on a fly to left to end the eighth, then went whiff, whiff, groundout for his 15th save while extending his scoreless string to 23 innings. Uehara has not allowed a run since July 9, a span of 20 outings.
The Red Sox were held scoreless on one hit over the last 4 1/3 innings by the White Sox's bullpen, but created sufficient havoc against White Sox starter Hector Santiago, who left after a yield of five hits, five walks and four runs in just 3 2/3 innings, expending a staggering 101 pitches in that brief appearance.
The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the third when Shane Victorino singled and came around to score when Santiago loaded the bases by walking Ortiz and hitting Jonny Gomes with a pitch, then walking Mike Napoli to force in the run.
A leadoff walk to Will Middlebrooks, who subsequently stole second for his first stolen base of the season, touched off a three-run rally in the fourth. Victorino, who has 11 RBIs in his past five games, singled home Middlebrooks, Dustin Pedroia doubled to left, and Ortiz snapped an 0-for-23 skid with a two-run single to right.
The Sox have won three of four since returning home Tuesday. Jake Peavy faces his former mates Saturday night.