Mariners beat up Sox again

White Sox manager Jerry Manuel was playing to win Sunday.

But he was also peering into the horizon, knowing that the first-place Royals were coming to U.S. Cellular Field on Monday for a three-game series.

Manuel rested Roberto Alomar, Joe Crede, Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko in favor of Willie Harris, Tony Graffanino, Brian Daubach and Aaron Rowand.

"You have to," Manuel said about taking a long-term perspective. "Everybody has to play and everybody has to feel a part if you're going to win. I thought the guys that went out today did well."

Rowand hit his fifth home run. Graffanino and Daubach made sparkling defensive plays.

But it wasn't nearly enough against the Seattle Mariners, who scored six runs in the fifth inning of their 8-2 victory.

It was the second straight blowout loss for a Sox team that had gone 13-1 since July 18 to move to within one percentage point of a first-place tie with Kansas City.

Now the Sox trail by two games after the Royals' weekend victories over Tampa Bay.

"We can still get on top of them if we win all three games," Jose Valentin said. "Playing at home, we're going to be more pumped up."

Valentin had a tough time with the glove in the fifth inning Sunday.

After the Sox took a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning on Carlos Lee's RBI single, Mark Buehrle immediately found trouble.

He walked leadoff hitter Mike Cameron and then issued a one-out free pass to Rey Sanchez. Willie Bloomquist's single loaded the bases.

Ichiro Suzuki slashed a two-run single to left to put Seattle ahead 2-1.

With two outs, Bret Boone hit a soft grounder to short. Valentin juggled the ball and had no play.

"Even if I didn't bobble it, I don't think I would have thrown Boone out, but who knows?" he said.

Edgar Martinez then hit a sharp grounder in the hole. Valentin was there but could not backhand it.

"I was trying to knock the ball down and keep Buehrle out of a big inning," Valentin said. "Unfortunately I didn't do it."

Buehrle then gave up a bloop single to John Olerud and a line single to Cameron.

"It's the second time facing these guys where I've had my stuff working for me early on and then they get to me," said Buehrle, who had won seven straight entering the game. "I don't know if I need to change up my routine or what."

Despite getting outscored 18-2 in the final two games in Seattle, the Sox weren't too down after what they deemed a positive road tip.

"We still have to be happy," Buehrle said. "We went 4-2 against two of the better teams in baseball."

Manuel agreed.

"No doubt it's a successful road trip," he said. "Anytime you can sweep the team in front of you (Kansas City) and make up as much ground as we did, you have to be happy with that.

"Plus we're still in good shape to make a good push. We're healthy."