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Phil Humber ace-like as White Sox beat Mariners 5-1

Sox starter Phil Humber tips his cap after another sharp outing. He gave up one run 72/3 innings.  |

Sox starter Phil Humber tips his cap after another sharp outing. He gave up one run in 72/3 innings. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 15, 2011 12:28AM

The Seattle Mariners trotted Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez to the mound to face the White Sox on Tuesday night. The Sox countered with their ace and won.

What else can you call Phil Humber, who emerged from a pack of competitors to win a fifth-starter derby, then pitched so well that the Sox couldn’t take him out of the
rotation when Jake Peavy got back?

With Peavy headed back to the disabled list and John Danks finding his way back to form, there’s another job posted on the help-wanted board in the Sox clubhouse: staff ace.

Humber (5-3, 2.87 ERA) clearly has been the steadiest and best of the Sox’ lot, and he proved it again Tuesday in a 5-1 victory by holding the Seattle Mariners to one run over 72/3 innings.

Granted, the Mariners, a .230-hitting team, are not the 1927 Yankees. But Humber has road wins over the Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Adding a win against Hernandez is the latest feather in his cap.

The 21,337 fans gave Humber an ovation as he walked off the field when manager Ozzie Guillen removed him in the eighth after his 106th pitch. Humber tipped his cap.

“The only thing that comes close to that was in my first major-league start in Shea Stadium after the first inning,’’ Humber said. “They got loud. It’s always nice to have the fans behind you. I appreciate their support.’’

Humber allowed five hits and three walks while striking out five. Right-handed batters are hitting a MLB-worst .133 against him.

“Just trying to show them they made the right decision,’’ said Humber, who credits his between-starts preparation and mental approach for his breakout season.

“I came in this year and just wanted to pitch like I didn’t have anything to lose,’’ Humber said. “So far I’ve been able to maintain that aggressive attitude, just attacking the strike zone.

“I’ve always had a good breaking ball, but in years past I’ve had to lean on it too much. Now I have three other pitches I can rely on any time in the count.’’

Paul Konerko hit his 14th home run against Hernandez (6-5) in the second to give the Sox a 1-0 lead. A two-run triple by Omar Vizquel followed by a two-run homer by Carlos Quentin — his 15th — produced a four-run third and gave Humber an almost unexpected early lead against Hernandez.

“It’s huge,’’ Humber said. “You know he’s going to be tough, so credit to our hitters for battling him and getting the runs they did.’’

Konerko moved past Matt Williams (378 homers) and into a tie with Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez for 61st place on the all-time homer list. Quentin extended his hitting streak to nine. Vizquel, 44, became the oldest player to hit a triple since Julio Franco (age 46) in 2005.

Chris Sale, who replaced Humber in the eighth, got the last four outs as the Sox (30-33) beat Seattle for the 10th straight time at home. The Sox have won six of their last eight and 19 of 30 for the third-best record in the AL since May 7.

The Sox won without Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, who were held out of the lineup by Guillen. Rios, who came in as a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement, will be back tonight, Guillen said.

But Dunn won’t. He’ll get another mental health day and probably start Thursday against the A’s.

“I think right now his mind is all over the place and I think that’s what’s killing him,’’ Guillen said. “Little by little you see some swings out there you like, but in the meanwhile there’s nothing out there.’’

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