CHICAGO (AP) – Tadahito Iguchi nearly got the day off because of the heat. Luckily for the Chicago White Sox, manager Ozzie Guillen decided to let him play despite the temperature of 100 degrees at the start.

Iguchi homered and went 3-for-4 with three RBIs Sunday, and the White Sox beat the Boston Red Sox 6-4 to split the four-game series with the defending World Series champs.

“I almost didn’t play Iguchi today. I thought about giving him the day off because it’s so hot and he never played in weather like that,” Guillen said.

“Somebody told me to just let him go out there and take a chance. He did a tremendous job.”

Iguchi didn’t realize he almost spent the day on the bench.

“Maybe I’ll get a day off tomorrow,” he said through a translator.

Iguchi lined a two-out, two-run homer just over the right-field fence after a double by Scott Podsednik to put the White Sox up 4-2 in the second against Bronson Arroyo (8-6). Ross Gload doubled in a run in the third for a three-run Chicago lead.

Iguchi got his third RBI in the seventh, singling in Podsednik, who had doubled to finish Arroyo.

“It was hot. Luckily, the wind was blowing a little and that made it tolerable,” said Podsednik, who also finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and a single.

Jose Contreras, used to the heat in his native Cuba, threw 116 pitches over 5 2-3 innings for the victory.

“It’s not easy when it’s 100 degrees down there. But Contreras is going to be the type of pitcher who throws a lot of pitches every game. That’s the way he pitches,” Guillen said.

With rumors and reports swirling that the White Sox are trying to acquire Florida’s A.J. Burnett to stabilize their rotation for a run at a championship, Contreras (6-6) struggled again with a high pitch count early, throwing 82 through the first four innings.

He allowed eight hits and three runs, walking two and striking out six against a team that has always given him trouble. He entered the game with a career 1-4 record and 13.50 ERA against the Red Sox.

“It was a little harder than the other starts,” Contreras said through a translator. “I’d rather pitch in warm weather than cold. The warm doesn’t bother me at all.”

David Ortiz and Jason Varitek homered for Boston, which had the tying run on in the ninth and ended up stranding 11 runners. The heat was not a factor, manager Terry Francona said.

“I think guys would rather play in this than 20 degrees,” Francona said. “It’s baseball. Guys were smart enough to eat well and stay with liquids.”

Damaso Marte walked two in the ninth and was replaced with one out by Dustin Hermanson, who allowed an RBI single to Manny Ramirez to make it 6-4. But Hermanson got Trot Nixon to fly out and John Olerud to ground to second with two men on to earn his 23rd save in 24 chances.

Cliff Politte had pitched out of a first-and-second, no-out jam in the eighth, getting Varitek on a popup, striking out Alex Cora and retiring Tony Graffanino on a fly to center.

“It seemed like every time we came up with guys in scoring position and they called to the bullpen, they got the job done,” Boston’s Johnny Damon said. “This series we left a lot of guys on base.”

Varitek hit his 15th homer in the sixth to make it 5-3, a solo shot that came right after Kevin Millar was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double.

“I was thinking two the whole way,” Millar said. “Usually I read that play better, but I thought I had a chance to beat the throw and I didn’t.”

Cora followed Varitek’s homer with a single to finish Contreras and Graffanino worked a walk off reliever Luis Vizcaino before Neal Cotts retired Damon on a fly to end that rally.

Arroyo, whose name has also surfaced in trade talk with the deadline a week away, pitched 6 2-3 innings, giving up eight hits and six runs.

“I wasn’t sweating that much at all. I didn’t think that had much of an effect on the game,” Arroyo said. “It wasn’t as hot as it seemed out there.”

Ortiz hit a solo homer in the first, his 24th of the season. Paul Konerko had a two-run double after singles by Iguchi and Carl Everett to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning.

But the Red Sox tied it quickly in the second on Nixon’s single, Varitek’s double and a sacrifice fly by Cora.

Notes: White Sox RF Jermaine Dye sat out a fourth straight game recovering from infected bug bites on his left leg. … Francona gave shortstop Edgar Renteria a day off to rest and Cora got the start. Cora, batting .202 entering the game, responded with two singles and a sacrifice fly. … Contreras has given up nine career homers against the Red Sox, the most he’s allowed against any team.

AP-ES-07-24-05 2003EDT

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