CHICAGO -- Amid all the uncertainty surrounding the Yankees' rotation these days, the team's offense issued a reminder on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
It doesn't much matter who is on the mound when you score 12 runs.
The Yankees allowed nine runs for the second straight night, but they were on the winning end the second time around, jumping to an early lead and holding on for a 12-9 victory over the White Sox.
"It was a great team effort," said Marcus Thames, who hit a pair of long home runs to left field. "Last night, it was ugly from the start. Tonight, we just played baseball."
The Yankees' offensive outburst followed a bit of a pattern early on: Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer to left in the first, Eduardo Nunez a two-run homer to left in the second and Thames a two-run homer to left in the third.
After that formula broke in a scoreless fourth, the Yankees fixed it, collecting a two-run double in the fifth from Jorge Posada and a two-run single from Nunez.
Indeed, with Mark Teixeira departing after one at-bat with a bruised right thumb, it was the ninth hitter in the order who powered much of the offense. Making his fourth Major League start, Nunez picked up three hits, drove in four and scored two runs. He now has seven RBIs, which equals the number of games in which he's earned at least one at-bat. His home run, which traveled an estimated 383 feet into the stands in left, was the first of his brief Major League career.
"I'm really happy and very excited," Nunez said afterward, his smile accentuating his adjectives.
"He was the star of the night," said starting pitcher CC Sabathia.
Nunez was far from alone.
Robinson Cano also had three knocks -- all singles -- and scored twice. Swisher added an RBI single to his first-inning shot and Thames smacked his second homer to provide an insurance run in the ninth, which proved critical when the Yankees' bullpen allowed two runs for the second straight inning.
"You get the lead and you keep the lead," manager Joe Girardi said. "When you score 12 runs, a lot of times you don't think the other club's going to get nine. But we got more than they did, and that's all that matters."
Most of the Yankees' damage came off White Sox starter John Danks, who was tagged with a career-high-tying eight earned runs and three home runs in 4 1/3 innings. Danks got himself into trouble in the first two innings, each time walking a batter ahead of a home run. Three of the four men he walked on the night came around to score.
"It was just one of those nights," said Danks, who fell to 12-9 on the season with the 12-9 loss. "There's really nothing to do but take full responsibility for this one."
The beneficiary of the Yankees' offensive boom was Sabathia, who picked the right time to submit his worst outing in three months. With the rotation crumbling around him, Sabathia has responded to the increased significance of his starts, becoming even more reliable as the season has progressed. On Saturday, the Bombers repaid the favor, handing him his Major League-leading 18th win even as he didn't record a quality start for the first time since May.
Pitching with a lead all night, Sabathia allowed a two-out RBI single to Paul Konerko in the first, a two-out two-run homer to Konerko in the third and a two-run homer to Andruw Jones in the fourth. Both home runs came on changeups that Sabathia left over the plate.
"My changeup wasn't really doing anything," Sabathia said. "It was hard and it had too much of the plate."
After the Jones home run, though, Sabathia settled into more of a rhythm. He struck out seven of the next 11 hitters, allowing only two hits and a walk over his final four innings. He was more careful with his changeup from the fifth inning on, using his curveball early in counts and his cutter to finish hitters off.
"After it was 6-5, we came in and [Posada] said we still have the lead, so let's just go out there and work on that," said Sabathia. "And then we scored more runs."
"He's our ace for a reason," Thames said.
Sabathia completed seven innings for the 14th time in his past 17 starts, although this was the first of those starts in which he allowed more than three earned runs. Sabathia's final line -- five runs on nine hits in seven innings -- was almost exactly what he produced in his previous start on the South Side a season ago, when he allowed five runs on 10 hits in seven. He won that one, too.
"I just had to battle," he said. "Get it done one way or the other."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.