Sox attack a no-show

The lethal White Sox offense went into Operation Shutdown on Thursday afternoon at the Ballpark in Arlington, tuning out and turning off in the Texas heat.

After Magglio Ordonez's two-out single in the third, rookie Joaquin Benoit combined with three relievers to retire the final 19 Sox hitters in a 4-1 Rangers victory.

"They had our number," manager Jerry Manuel said. "Hopefully next week we'll see him over at our place."

The Sox split the four-game series in Texas and headed to Anaheim for their third West Coast trip in six weeks.

With scheduled starter Ismael Valdes scratched because of stiffness in his lower back, the Rangers turned to the 24-year-old Benoit, who was making his second major-league appearance and first start.

Facing a team on pace to score 1,005 runs, Benoit pitched six strong innings, yielding one run on four hits and retiring the final 10 batters.

"He was effectively wild," Paul Konerko said. "You didn't know exactly what you were getting in certain counts."

Relievers John Rocker, Rudy Seanez and Hideki Irabu combined for three perfect innings to finish it off.

The Sox grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on Mark Johnson's RBI single, right after Konerko was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on a Carlos Lee double. Konerko held up to see if Gabe Kapler would make the catch and didn't have a chance.

"You can look at it two different ways," Konerko said. "I'm really slow, and I'm really slow."

Sox starter Todd Ritchie (3-3) experienced control problems early, needing 33 pitches to get out of the first inning unscathed. The Rangers tied it in the second on Hector Ortiz's homer and manufactured a run to take the lead in the third.

Mike Young singled leading off, stole second and advanced to third on Ritchie's wild pitch. Rusty Greer's two-out single scored Young. Frank Catalanotto's homer in the seventh made it 3-1, and the Rangers added an insurance run in the eighth off Rocky Biddle on Kapler's sacrifice fly.

Despite the loss, the Sox were upbeat heading into Anaheim. The contrast in the mood of the team from 2001 to this year was never more evident than Thursday morning.

One year ago this week in Arlington, several Sox players gathered around the big-screen TV in the visitor's clubhouse to watch an ESPN report on David Wells' criticism of Frank Thomas on Wells' radio show. On Thursday, several players gathered around the same TV, watching a cuddly ESPN feature on the relationship between Kenny Lofton and his grandmother. The players gave out a collective "Aaaaaaaaw" at the conclusion of the report, nearly causing Lofton to blush.

What once was a team divided now consists of players who seem to enjoy each other's company. Though it may be too simplistic to suggest the improved chemistry is because of the addition of Lofton and the subtraction of Wells, that appears to be a contributing factor. Either way, the atmosphere is much improved.

"The thing is, winning helps everything," closer Keith Foulke said. "Everything you do is better when you win. So far, everything has been going real well for us."

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