BOSTON – Hector Santiago had a full workload with 101 pitches. His problem was that he threw them all in 3 2-3 innings.
The left-hander kept missing the plate and Boston's patient hitters kept laying off his pitches on their way to a 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
"He had a very high pitch count early in the game. They've done it to a lot of teams," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said of the Red Sox. "They do a good job of grinding on you."
Half of the 22 batters Santiago faced reached base on five hits, five walks and one hit batter.
"I felt fine. It's just one of those days you go out and stink," Santiago (4-8) said after the shortest outing of his last 11 starts. "If you can't throw strikes, you can't succeed."
Ryan Dempster did that for Boston after walking the first two batters of the game. He walked just one more before leaving after 6 1-3 innings.
"When you get opportunities with a guy who knows what he is doing, you have to take advantage. Obviously, we didn't do that," Chicago DH Adam Dunn said. "He threw a little bit of everything."
Dempster (7-9) returned from his five-game suspension for hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch on Aug. 18 and led the Red Sox to their fifth victory in six games.
It was the 10th straight game in which Red Sox pitchers allowed three or fewer runs, a streak that began with the first game after Dempster plunked Rodriguez.
"They've done an unbelievable job, all of us in the rotation. I'm glad I could just slide in and do a little bit of my part," Dempster said. "Hopefully, that's just something that will continue to build up."
Dempster held Chicago hitless through the first four innings and allowed three runs on five hits in 6 1-3 innings.
"When you're not out playing and you're not injured, it's not a fun thing," he said. "I worked hard in the time off I had to be as ready as possible."
David Ortiz snapped an 0-for-23 slump with a two-run single for the AL East leaders.
"I told you guys last night, don't worry about me," Ortiz said. "Start worrying about me when I go up to the plate with no bat."
Koji Uehara struck out two in the ninth for his 15th save. He worked 1 1-3 innings in his 20th straight scoreless appearance.
Boston manager John Farrell, a former pitching coach, said it's the best stretch by a closer he's ever seen.
Chicago lost for the second time in six games as it started a 10-game road trip after winning its previous five series.
The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the third on a bases-loaded walk to Mike Napoli. They made it 4-0 in the fourth when Will Middlebrooks walked, stole second and scored on Shane Victorino's single. Ortiz followed with his two-run single off Santiago.
Dempster struck out five and walked three. After walking the first two batters, he got Alexei Ramirez to ground into a double play and struck out Dunn.
"The biggest pitch he made of the night was the groundball double play," Farrell said. "They had a chance to build an inning against him. He shuts it off right there."
Dempster's next three innings were perfect, with only one of the nine outs getting beyond the infield.
Dempster ran into trouble in the fifth when Paul Konerko led off with a double for Chicago's first hit and went to third on a single by Avisail Garcia. Konerko was thrown out at home on a grounder. Dayan Viciedo then singled in Garcia.
The White Sox cut the lead to 4-3 in the seventh on Garcia's fourth homer of the season, a single by Viciedo and a triple by Alejandro De Aza off Junichi Tazawa.
But Dempster pitched well long enough to give the Red Sox a chance.
"It was great to have him back out there," Victorino said.
NOTES: John Danks (4-10) pitches for Chicago against Jake Peavy (10-5) on Saturday in the second game of the three-game series. ... Ramirez returned to the starting lineup at SS after missing his first game of the season. ... Chicago's six-game road winning streak ended. ... Boston left the bases loaded in the third and sixth. ... Chicago acquired Garcia from Detroit on July 30 in a three-team trade that sent Peavy to Boston. ... The Red Sox became the first AL team to win 80 games. ... Santiago allowed more than three earned runs in a road game for the first time in his career.