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Sox starter Edwin Jackson is star of home opener

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Rays manager Joe Maddon had seen this horror show before. Worse yet, this one was a double feature starring Edwin Jackson.

Maddon sat through a chilly Thursday afternoon watching his team fall to 0-6 with a 5-1 loss to the White Sox. That was one thing. Then there was Jackson manhandling his team in much the same fashion Jackson did as an Arizona Diamondback last season, when he threw a no-hitter against the Rays.

Only this time, Jackson was better.

“Yeah, he was,’’ Maddon said. “He had much better command. He really had the slider working today. He was throwing them to good spots. He got us chasing a bit — we don’t chase a lot, but he was very sharp today. He was very good.”

Jackson (2-0) treated a sellout crowd to a 13-strikeout performance over eight innings, a Sox strikeout record for a home opener and a personal high. He walked one and allowed four hits as the Sox (4-2) cruised past Maddon’s scuffling Rays.

Jackson’s slider was the talk of both clubhouses afterward. Almost all of his whiffs came on that pitch.

“He’s got one of the best sliders in the game,’’ Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “He has such good arm action and body action with it. I remember as a hitter saying, I don’t want to face him, and thinking, ‘my gosh, I don’t want to have to hit his slider’ because his arm action is so good that it fools guys with not only the [downward] movement but the deception.

“When he got ahead of guys, he was throwing it for a strike down out of the zone. He’s tough. When he’s on, he’s as good as anybody. Hopefully, he can keep it going.’’

Without Adam Dunn a second straight day, center fielder Alex Rios moved into the No. 3 spot and delivered a two-run double in his first at-bat and a double in his second against David Price (0-2). Rios, who had hit into tough luck in the Sox’ first four games, has four hits in his last two.

Paul Konerko (2-for-4) drove in Rios to give him an RBI in all six games, a Sox record. Juan Pierre (3-for-5) and Brent Lillibridge (2-for-3) each drove in a run.

Jackson took a shutout into the eighth, when pinch hitter Felipe Lopez doubled and Reid Brignac singled him home. Johnny Damon flied out to Lillibridge in deep right, which got a fist pump from Jackson.

“Baseball is a game of inches,’’ Jackson said. “One pitch can ruin a whole game — and when he hit that ball initially, I did think it was gone. It was a great feeling to see Lillibridge at the fence catching it for a last out.’’

That was all for Jackson, who threw 120 pitches. Sergio Santos pitched a scoreless ninth.

Jackson said he was somewhat surprised to hear his strikeout total. After it settled in, he called it a career highlight. It was his 50th victory, and his sixth (with two defeats) since coming to the Sox at last year’s trade deadline.

“Any time I’m able to go out and get in an early rhythm and get outs quick and attack the strike zone, I like my odds,’’ Jackson said. “I have trouble in games when I’m coming out and behind in the counts and have to throw strikes. There wasn’t too many times where I had to do that — and when I did, I was able to make a quality pitch for an out.’’

Said Maddon: “He was getting us out of the zone a bit, but I think that’s a tribute to how sharp his breaking pitch was. It does not surprise me that he’s turning out this good. We talked about that a few years ago. David was pretty good, but not as good as Edwin was today.”

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