ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Chicago White Sox are learning how difficult it is to be a frontrunner.
The AL Central leaders beat Tampa Bay 5-2 Wednesday to end a two-game losing streak against the last-place Devil Rays, who became just the second team to take a series from the team with baseball's best record.
"I tell my players: 'You're going to be a contender. Every day is going to be tougher and tougher,"' White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "When you're a first-place team ... it's not easy mentally or physically."
Starter Orlando Hernandez shrugged off being struck in the leg by a ground ball and took a two-hitter into the seventh inning, helping Chicago rebound after losing the first two games of the series.
Paul Konerko had a two-run double and Jermaine Dye and Aaron Rowand also drove in runs in support of Hernandez (5-1), who left after giving up a leadoff single and walking two batters to load the bases with one out in the seventh.
"We needed this game," Hernandez said. "We got it."
The 35-year-old right-hander allowed three hits and two runs, one on Alex Gonzalez's sacrifice fly off reliever Cliff Politte. Alex Sanchez drove in Tampa Bay's other run with a third-inning double.
Dustin Hermanson worked the last 1 2/3 innings for his sixth save, extending his season-long streak of not allowing a run to 16 1/3 innings over 14 relief appearances. The win was the ninth in 11 games for Chicago.
"We're going to lose more games. It's how we bounce back," Hermanson said. "It was a winning road trip, and we've got to look at it that way."
The White Sox scored four runs in the fifth against Dewon Brazelton (1-7), making the Tampa Bay right-hander the first seven-game loser in the majors. Konerko's double was the big blow, driving in two after Chicago had taken a 2-1 lead on a wild pitch.
The victory improved Chicago's record to a major league-best 25-9, matching the 1951 White Sox for the second-best start in club history.
Hernandez was hit just above the right ankle by Chris Singleton's grounder back to the mound in the fourth. He wasn't hindered the rest of the way.
"Duque was outstanding," Guillen said. "It was pretty sore, and he still went out there and did the job."
The White Sox have led in all 34 of their games, a major league record to begin a season. And for the third straight day, Tampa Bay was undaunted by falling behind in the early innings.
Sanchez's RBI double wiped out a 1-0 deficit in the third, however the Devil Rays wasted three other scoring opportunities against Hernandez and never fully recovered while going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Brazelton, Tampa Bay's opening day starter, nearly lost his spot in the rotation after a poor performance against Minnesota last Friday. His 11th loss in his last 12 decisions will bring a demotion to Triple-A Durham on Thursday.
"Everybody's disappointed, but it's probably the best thing," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "We'll see if we can get him straightened out."
Brazelton, who will be replaced in the rotation by Casey Fossum, left the clubhouse without talking to reporters.
"Dewon needs to get his confidence back," pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said. "He needs to get command of his fastball."
Chicago took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Pablo Ozuna scored on Brazelton's wild pitch. Konerko's two-run double made it 4-1 and Dye finished the four-run inning with an RBI single that chased the Tampa Bay right-hander.
Brazelton, whose ERA is 6.43 allowed five runs and four hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked six, giving him 29 in 42 innings, and struck out two.
Hernandez improved to 11-3 lifetime against Tampa Bay, including 5-0 at Tropicana Field. He walked four and struck out four, allowing just four baserunners after Sanchez drove in the Devil Rays' first run.
- Dye was 1-for-10 in the series before his RBI single in the fifth.
- Chicago's Scott Podsednik sat out because of an upset stomach. DH Carl Everett did not play because of cramps in his left leg.
- Gonzalez made his first start at shortstop for Tampa Bay. He's made 21 starts at third base.
- The Devil Rays are 12-12 at home, but just 1-10 on the road, where they'll play 22 of their next 28 games.