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If the real Jon Garland is the one who has shown up the last three starts, one of the bigger questions facing the White Sox may have been answered.
Garland shut out Kansas City on four hits through 6 2/3 innings Monday night, helping the Sox snap their seven-game losing streak in a 4-0 win at soggy Comiskey Park.
Garland's sudden turnaround has been one of the more positive signs for a team that has been put through the shredder over the past month. In his last three outings against Boston, the Yankees and Kansas City, Garland has allowed a combined three earned runs on 13 hits over 21 2/3 innings, a sterling 1.27 earned-run average.
The Sox scored only twice against Kansas City left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, on RBI doubles by Magglio Ordonez in the fourth and Aaron Rowand in the fifth, and managed only three hits through the first seven innings.
After a 54-minute rain delay before the bottom of the eighth, the Sox scored twice more on run-scoring hits by Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko, sealing the win for Garland.
Statistically speaking the Sox's lineup is one of the more productive in the majors, with several players among the league-leaders in several offensive categories.
"You don't play games on paper," Thomas said.
Royce Clayton was benched for his offensive struggles, but the heart of the order has been absent of late as well. Thomas was 8-for-43 in his last 11 games (.186), while Konerko was 4-for-34 in nine games (.118) and Ordonez had two hits in 12 at-bats before his fourth-inning double.
The Sox were the consensus pick to win the Central Division back in spring training but have struggled for the last month since jumping out to a 15-7 start.
Manager Jerry Manuel is feeling some heat for the first time in his managerial career, with a talented team hovering around .500 after the first two months. Manuel's decision-making has undergone intense scrutiny, especially since his pitching moves blew up in last week's sweep by the Yankees at Comiskey Park. Manuel said the second-guessing comes with the territory.
"The losses always come under my name," Manuel said. "All the L's are under my name. Some of the things we tried last week didn't work. The week before they worked. We just happened to have a bigger stage [against the Yankees]. If you'd sit where I'm sitting, you've got to be able to take the criticism and you've got to be honest that if it's warranted, you've got to deal with it."
Manuel's benching of Clayton may be the first of many moves to come. Ray Durham's days may be numbered if he continues to commit fielding and base-running mistakes, since he almost certainly won't be re-signed as a free agent. White Sox management is also running out of patience with Carlos Lee, although Lee's bat is starting to come alive since his playing time was reduced.
"What has shown up lately is we've had some pitchers that we normally would've hit pretty well," Manuel said. "And when we're not hitting, then you give yourself an opportunity to be beaten by mediocrity. If you think you've got a good offense club, then you've got to go with offensive people."