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Jenks turns up the heat on Mariners

CHICAGO -- Bobby Jenks and his overpowering fastball are back, not that any of it really went anywhere.

In case anybody thinks Jenks lost a tick in his velocity, he showed with a vengeance Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners that he has plenty of thunder bolts available at his beck and call.

In a game that showcased a little bit of everything, aside from a rocky Mark Buehrle start, the White Sox walked away with a team victory after rallying for a 6-5 victory over the Mariners.

There was a power display with three home runs, some small ball for the go-ahead run and four members of the bullpen who were there to shut it down the rest of the way. The last act was the highlight, though, as Jenks struck out the side for the victory against the same Mariners team that rallied to beat him in extra innings last week in Seattle.

With a fastball that reached 99 mph, Jenks powered past the heart of the Seattle order in No. 3 hitter Franklin Gutierrez, cleanup man Russell Branyan and No. 5 guy Justin Smoak.

It was the first time Jenks recorded a perfect one-inning save with three strikeouts since Sept. 2, 2006 at Kansas City.

Since last week when manager Ozzie Guillen said he would use Jenks in lower-profile situations until he was able to get back on track, Jenks was held out of exactly zero save situations. There weren’t any over the weekend at Oakland and none came up in the first two games of the current Seattle series.

“You know what, maybe the people were confused, or he’s confused from what was out there, people saying he wasn’t the closer,” Guillen said. “We did this thing with Bobby in the past and I think our pitching coach and myself know what we’re doing. We’ve had Bobby for five, six, seven years, and I know what kind of guy he is. We’re dealing with a lot of stuff with him. We’re behind him 100 percent, not because he saved this game today. The reason he was there is because I have confidence in him.”

Jenks didn’t sound so sure.

“I try not to get involved too much in what goes on behind the doors,” Jenks said about Guillen’s plan to limit his role in the short term. “All I know is that I have to continuously keep proving myself and I just have to go out there and let my pitching do the talking.”

It might be giving the manager a little too much credit to say that Guillen’s harsh words about Jenks last week lit a fire under his closer. Whether he meant it or not, though, it seems as if that’s exactly what happened.

The save, Jenks’ 21st of the season, was just the exclamation point on the bullpen’s strong showing. Sergio Santos recorded his sixth consecutive scoreless appearance, Matt Thornton tempted fate by loading the bases before making his 17th consecutive scoreless appearance and J.J. Putz extended his White Sox record to 27 scoreless appearances.

“The bullpen … you can’t say enough about what they have done all year,” said Juan Pierre, who walked in the seventh inning, stole second, went to third on Alexi Ramirez’s sacrifice bunt and scored on an Alex Rios single. “They have been lights out for us. Everybody had a hand in this victory which is good.”

In between Buehrle putting the White Sox in a four-run hole and the heroics from Pierre, Rios and the bullpen, the White Sox put on a power display to get back in it. Gordon Beckham, Ramirez and Paul Konerko all hit home runs as the White Sox turned a 4-1 second-inning deficit into a 5-5 tie by the fifth inning.

“You guys have been seeing it for a while now that it’s not just one guy every night,” Jenks said. “All 25 guys have stepped up in certain situations all season long.”

By the numbers

10: Hits for Ramirez over his last 15 at-bats. Ramirez is also batting .375 (42-for-112) over his last 30 games. Against the Mariners this season, he is batting .424 (14-for-33) with three home runs and eight RBI.

Quote

“I should be happy, I’m in first place. The way we play in the beginning and the way we play right now, I should be the happiest man in baseball. We never thought we would be in this position early in the season. Every team will lose 50 [and] win 50. That’s 100 games. Those last 62 games, that will decide who is going to get into the playoffs.” – Guillen on reaching the 100-game mark with a 56-44 record.

Look ahead

Freddy Garcia (9-4, 4.74 ERA) is looking to rebound from the shortest start of his career when he faces the Mariners on Thursday in the finale of a four-game series. Garcia lasted just 1 1/3 innings against the A’s on Saturday, giving up five runs on six hits with three walks while ending a six-game winning streak. Over his last 14 outings he is 9-2 with 11 quality starts.

Garcia will be opposed by David Pauley (0-2, 2.18), who is making his fourth start of the season and second against the White Sox in two weeks. He lost to the White Sox on July 19 when he gave up three runs on eight hits over six innings.