Clutch hitting for Twins, not White Sox

Tribune reporter

Television cameras caught White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen talking to Nick Swisher's bat Wednesday, with slugger Jim Thome sporting a puzzled look.

"[Guillen] was trying to get my bat going again," Swisher joked.

After ending the first month of the season with a 4-3 loss to the Twins, the Sox can feel relieved that their recent offensive woes haven't been costlier.

They remain in first place in the American League Central at 14-12 thanks to a pitching staff that was extended further as reliever Nick Masset threw four innings in his second major-league start and Matt Thornton struck out four in a two-inning scoreless stint.

But the offense failed to carry its load as the Sox were swept in a two-game series and dropped to 5-for-45 with runners in scoring position over their last five games.

"We have had plenty of opportunities to win a lot of games," Swisher said. "That's one thing we'll have to work on. We might be trying too hard, trying to get the big hit every time. But I would much rather take 25 guys who want to do that than guys who don't care. And this team cares."

Clutch hitting deserted the Sox in the final four innings, which cost them when Justin Morneau delivered the go-ahead double in the seventh off reliever Boone Logan, who had replaced Ehren Wassermann earlier in the inning.

But the relievers kept the Sox within striking distance.

"We're not panicking," said Swisher, who took a called third strike from closer Joe Nathan with the tying and go-ahead runs on base to end the game. "A couple of rough games for us. We haven't been doing at the plate what we want to. Our pitchers did a heck of a job for us. We have to start scoring our runs. It's going to come."

Carlos Quentin hit a solo home run, his seventh, in the fourth inning off Nick Blackburn. But the Sox couldn't combine more than two hits in an inning after the fifth, when Swisher hit an RBI single that tied the game 3-3.

"Another day without hitting," Guillen said after the Sox scored three runs or fewer for the third game in a row. "It's tough to win games when you only score two or three runs a game, and that's what we've been doing lately."

The Sox were 12-11 in April 2007 en route to a 90-loss season. But the pitchers and hitters are maintaining their confidence that better days are ahead.

"Once everything clicks, it's going to be even more dangerous because we're in every game," catcher Toby Hall said.

Thornton, one of the survivors of a retooled Sox bullpen that had contributed to the 2007 failure, pointed to the resiliency of this year's team.

"Last year [stunk]," he said. "It's a lot more fun. We usually bounce back after one or two losses, win a couple of games and get back on a roll. That's all we have to do. Enjoy an off day, come back in Toronto and go back to playing hard and the right way."

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