BALTIMORE -- Jim Thome quickly got back into the swing of things after an unwanted day off.
Jose Contreras (1-1) pitched seven innings of four-hit ball for the White Sox, who have won nine of 12. He struck out six, walked none and lowered his ERA from 6.17 to 4.34.
Thome was forced to sit Tuesday after receiving a one-game suspension for inappropriate actions during an April 11 game against Detroit. He returned to lineup against the Orioles with a .156 batting average and a homerless drought that had reached 43 at-bats.
In his first plate appearance, Thome followed a leadoff single by Nick Swisher and a walk to Orlando Cabrera with a shot to center off Adam Loewen (0-1).
"Things haven't really been going very well. The nice thing is, our club has been playing really well," Thome said. "We've picked each other up. It's always nice to contribute and do something."
Thome received a hearty reception when he returned to the dugout, mostly because the team was delighted to see him hitting again.
"We need that. I told him, 'I need that for myself,"' manager Ozzie Guillen said. "When he hit the home run, everybody was excited. Not because we took the lead, but because Jimmy is swinging the bat good."
That proved to be all the offense the White Sox needed, although Thome added his third double of the season and finished 2-for-4.
"I made a few adjustments today," he said. "You continue to do your work, grind your at-bats out and not panic."
Contreras didn't fret after singles by Nick Markakis, Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff produced a fourth-inning run. The right-hander promptly struck out Luke Scott and retired Adam Jones on a grounder before concluding his outing with three perfect innings.
"I'm very happy, being able to have a very strong outing in which I threw all my pitches for strikes," Contreras said.
Scott Linebrink worked the eighth and Bobby Jenks got three straight outs for his sixth save.
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said beforehand that he was relying on Loewen to go deep into the game to preserve his overtaxed bullpen. After Loewen allowed the first three batters to score, it appeared the Orioles would again get a poor performance from a starting rotation with only three wins.
"He missed on his location to Thome. He was trying to get the ball in. He didn't," Trembley said. "He got too much of the middle of the plate. The guy's hit 500 home runs. He knew what to do with it and he hit it."
It was Thome's 510th homer, the first since he hit two on opening day. The slugger is one short of tying Mel Ott for 21st on the career list, and needs two home runs to match Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews.
"Those are special names. Those are guys who have done tremendous things in the game," Thome said. "Sometimes you don't really think about it until we talk about it. But it's special. It's something that's pretty cool."
After Thome's homer, Loewen settled down -- aided by a pair of outfield assists. Markakis threw out Thome at third on a third-inning bloop single by Paul Konerko, and Scott cut down Cabrera trying to score in the fifth on a single by A.J. Pierzynski.
"The defense was outstanding today. They bailed me out of a lot of trouble," Loewen said. "It could have been a lot worse."
Loewen lasted six innings. The left-hander gave up three runs, six hits and five walks in his strongest outing of the season. But Baltimore still lost for the sixth time in eight games, thanks to Thome and Contreras.
"We just couldn't get that game tied up," Millar said. "We had a chance to get another run, make it 3-2. He made a great pitch on Luke Scott, big forkball at 3-2. He made his pitches when he needed to make them."
The White Sox have homered in 12 of 14 games and have allowed only four home runs all season. ... Huff stole his second base of the season. He had one all last year. ... Chicago accepted RHP Fernando Hernandez, a Rule 5 selection, back from Oakland. He will be assigned to Double-A Birmingham.