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Humber hangs on, continues to get it done

Two weeks ago there was talk that Phil Humber might lose his spot in the White Sox’s starting rotation upon Jake Peavy’s return.

After another solid outing, he’s slowly working his way into the early Cy Young Award conversation.

At first glance, his 3-3 record isn’t very exciting and his 3.18 ERA has plenty of competition, including four pitchers who are under 2.00, but Humber has been as hot as anybody over the last three weeks.

In his most recent outing, Friday at Oakland, he narrowly missed his fourth consecutive start with three hits or less and seven innings. He reached the seventh inning by only giving up three hits, but gave up three more and never finished the frame.

A fourth such outing would have been a White Sox record and the first time it had been done in the major leagues since 2004 (Johan Santana).

“I tried to mix it up and really wasn’t hitting my spots at all and they were hitting the ball right at guys,” Humber said of his outing. “We made some pretty good plays out there too. I was just glad to get a win out of that one.”

Humber has been so good that he has forced the White Sox’ hand at using a six-man rotation, at least until June 2, when the club has its next off day.

“We’re awesome,” manager Ozzie Guillen joked before Friday’s game. “Some people have three [starters], we have six. Some people have two and we have six.”

White Sox starters have been something close to awesome of late. Over the last 10 games, including Friday, White Sox starters have a 2.71 ERA. During that span, the starters have knocked their overall ERA down from 4.44 to just under 4.00.

Humber has done his part. He has a 2.33 ERA over his last four outings and is among the American League leaders in opponents’ batting average, hits per nine innings and opponents’ slugging percentage.

What has made things a challenge for Humber, and for all White Sox starters, is run support. Humber was getting just 1.92 runs per game before Friday’s outing. Getting more than double that against the A’s on Friday was just enough.

“I want to earn it every time I go out there and pitch like I have nothing to lose,” Humber said. “I don’t think anybody was expecting much out of me at the start of the year but hopefully they’re starting to expect a little more out of me. Now I want to be a part of this team and do everything I can to help them win.”