Melting away

Minutes after the game, White Sox manager Jerry Manuel addressed his team, imploring them not to give up the fight.

"That's what I told them: We've still got a shot," he said. "But it's very slim. But we have a chance and we have to play lights-out the rest of the way."

The Sox all but played themselves out of postseason contention Wednesday night with a dreadful performance in a 4-2 loss to the Twins before 40,304 at the Metrodome.

The Sox fell 2½ games out of first place with just 11 to go.

"Everyone's upset," Frank Thomas said, "and that goes with the territory. But anything still can happen."

Not as long as the Sox's offense continues to resemble the group that nearly ended their season in June.

The Sox have scored just 21 runs over the last seven games, five of which were losses.

"Our big guys have to hit," Manuel said. "I can't put it any simpler than that."

The Sox managed just one extra-base hit Wednesday, Joe Crede's two-run homer in the seventh inning.

They also drew only one walk, a ninth-inning free pass to Magglio Ordonez. Carl Everett followed that by grounding into a double play.

"We're not putting the ball in play when we should," said Everett, who has four hits over the last two games. "We need to play a little hungrier than we are. I don't think we're as hungry as we should be."

Whether it's a lack of hunger or basic incompetence, the Sox appeared to be anything but a playoff-worthy team:

- Starter Jon Garland walked five batters. He also gave up three two-out RBI singles.

(At least Garland wasn't pelted with a scrunched up piece of paper as he walked off the field. Reliever Kelly Wunsch was as he made his way to the dugout after issuing a fifth-inning walk.)

- Ordonez missed a cutoff man on a fourth-inning throw to third base, allowing A.J. Pierzynski to take second.

- Two wild pitches got past Sandy Alomar Jr., who nearly redeemed himself by throwing out Luis Rivas on an attempted steal. Rivas was called safe.

- Roberto Alomar and Thomas combined to go 0-for-6 against veteran lefty Kenny Rogers.

"Our guys have faced him a bunch over the years," hitting coach Greg Walker said. "Heck, I faced him 20 years ago. So it's no secret what he's trying to do. We missed some pitches we should have hit."

Thomas was asked before the game whether he thought this might be his final stretch of games in a Sox uniform. He can opt for free agency after the season.

"I have the option to look elsewhere if I want to, but that's just something I earned after going through what I went through last year," he said of his infamous diminished-skills clause. "Thirteen years with the same team, I've taken pride in that.

"[But] we don't need to be talking about that right now. We'll handle that when the season's over and after the World Series."

By all appearances, it will be a World Series that won't involve the Sox for the 45th consecutive year.