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White Sox’ Philip Humber put on notice after latest bad start

With injuries mounting White Sox welcome return Philip Humber starting rotation. | AP

With injuries mounting, the White Sox welcome the return of Philip Humber to the starting rotation. | AP

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Updated: July 12, 2012 6:11AM

The White Sox continued to show why they have been one of the better hitting teams in baseball in recent weeks. They hit three more home runs Sunday against the Houston Astros and scored 22 runs in the three-game interleague series at U.S. Cellular Field.

But their nine runs Sunday weren’t enough, and that is worrisome.

Right-hander Philip Humber continued to struggle in the Sox’ 11-9 loss, and manager Robin Ventura suggested for the first time that he might be moved to the bullpen if things don’t turn around.

‘‘He has to [keep pitching],’’ Ventura said. ‘‘It’s hard to work your way out of it if you don’t pitch. Whether that’s starting or the bullpen, I don’t know. But it has to get better.’’

Humber (2-4) matched his career high in strikeouts with nine in 51/3 innings, but he also matched his career high with three homers allowed, including Justin Maxwell’s mammoth 461-foot drive to the fourth level in left field in the fifth. It was the fifth-longest homer by an opponent at U.S. Cellular Field.

‘‘He made some good pitches to Maxwell and then left that one a little more over the plate,’’ catcher Tyler Flowers said. ‘‘I thought he actually threw pretty well. But when he didn’t hit his spots, they hit them. . . . I don’t think he got away with any mistakes.’’

A somber Humber said he thought he was throwing better than the results showed.

‘‘For the most part, I made some good pitches,’’ he said.

But in nine starts since his perfect game April 21 in Seattle, Humber is 1-4 with a 7.50 ERA. He is 0-7 with a 5.92 ERA in his last 14 starts at home.

Ventura said Humber and Gavin Floyd are going through similar struggles.

‘‘They have an inning that’s good, and then they have an inning where they leave it in the middle [of the plate],’’ Ventura said. ‘‘You can’t do it with [the Astros]. They can swing the bat, especially in hitters’ counts.’’

Ventura said Humber will remain in the rotation for now.

‘‘He’s still going to make that next start [Saturday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles],’’ Ventura said. ‘‘You see flashes out there, but [his pitching] needs to be more consistent.’’

The Astros also punished the Sox’ bullpen, scoring three runs against Nate Jones in the sixth and two against Zach Stewart in the eighth.

The Sox rallied for two runs in the eighth on a homer by Paul Konerko and three in the ninth on a homer by Orlando Hudson before Brett Myers came on to finish for his 15th save.

The Sox have lost back-to-back series after winning five in a row.

‘‘I don’t read too much into that,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘We’ve beaten some teams this year that we kind of caught off-guard. Sometimes you catch teams, and they caught us this weekend.’’

Konerko extended that philosophy to the Sox’ two struggling starters.

‘‘You catch some days where it’s good to hit,’’ he said. ‘‘There are so many ups and downs as the season goes. Every team goes through it. It always seems like it’s worse when it’s your own team.’’

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