Twins cap sweep of Sox

Tribune staff reporter

It's not always fun to hold an 11-game lead with 44 games left. A season-high five-game losing streak caused by a dormant offense and sloppy defense definitely can ruin the mood.

The White Sox collectively expressed their disappointment after a 5-1 loss Wednesday night that capped a three-game sweep by three-time defending American League Central champion Minnesota.

Sox manager Ozzie Guillen held a brief pregame meeting with his hitters. But after seeing his team get no-hit for six innings by 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana and fall behind by five runs, Guillen felt the need to hold another gathering, though brief, after the game.

"We've got to have some fun," Guillen said. "I don't see the team having fun. I see the team worrying about losing and winning instead of playing the game."

Guillen said he was worried only about how the players would react after Thursday's day off, which precedes a three-game series against the New York Yankees before expected capacity crowds at U.S. Cellular Field.

"We've got to play the hardest we can," Guillen said.

The Sox haven't won since speedy leadoff batter Scott Podsednik went on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left groin muscle. But Guillen didn't see the need to add another slugger before the Aug. 31 trading deadline, such as Cincinnati slugger Ken Griffey Jr.

"I believe in the guys we have here," Guillen said. "I truly believe in those guys. They played for me for [118] games, and I know they're going to get it done."

As a result of their five-game skid, the Sox (74-44) lost the distinction of having baseball's best record to the St. Louis Cardinals (76-44).

Nevertheless, Guillen said: "In the position we are in, we should enjoy this thing. But we're not. We're caught up in stuff."

The Sox avoided a no-hitter when Carl Everett hit a bloop single inside the right-field line in the seventh, and they snapped Santana's third shutout bid when Paul Konerko led off the ninth with his 31st home run of the season.

But the Sox still lost, equaling their longest rut since last Sept. 12-17, which included a three-game sweep by the Twins.

"They're more hungry than we are," said left-hander Mark Buehrle (13-6), who allowed two home runs to Matt LeCroy and is 0-5 with a 5.60 ERA in his last five starts against the Twins. "We're playing [terrible], and there's no explanation for it.

"We're not having fun out there anymore. We get down, we start losing and we lose focus and kind of give up. We're not trying to hold nine innings like we were before."

Catcher Chris Widger acknowledged the losing has fueled the lack of fun.

"We start to press a little bit and try to do more than we're capable of," Widger said. "And it's part of being loose, and that's what Ozzie is trying to get back to. If you're going down, go down doing what you do best.

"We're not playing loose and having fun. We're going through the motions and playing a little tight."

Santana (12-6) toyed with the Sox before being lifted with one out in the ninth. He retired 16 consecutive batters before Everett ended the no-hit bid.

"He works ahead in the count, throws 93 to 95 m.p.h. and has one of the best changeups," Widger said. "When he's on, he can shut down lineups."

Said Guillen: "With all respect to Mark Buehrle and Randy Johnson, [Santana] is the best lefty in the game."

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