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Lineup misses the mark again
Every White Sox player who had a hit Sunday scored.
While that may sound impressive, it isn't when you consider the Sox had just three hits off Thornwood alum Mark Mulder in a 5-3 loss.
The Sox dropped three of four in Oakland to begin their eight-game trip, but held on to first place by a half-game over Minnesota, which lost to the Royals in 10 innings.
"I think we played a pretty good game," center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "We struggled swinging the bats against Mark, but how many teams in the American League are swinging the bats well against him?"
Not many. Mulder, who started the All-Star Game for the American League, improved to 13-2 with a 3.21 ERA.
The Sox hit just .162 in the four games against the A's, and their team batting average fell to .270.
"The big problem with the offense is [Barry] Zito and [Mark] Mulder and those guys," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Those are pretty good pitchers. We approached it the right way, they just pitched real good against us."
Lately, everyone has pitched well against the Sox. They came into the game with the worst team batting average in the major leagues for the month of July at .192. They are in danger of having the worst monthly average in July for the last 32 seasons, which is held by the 1972 New York Mets at .188.
Even worse, the Sox's usual road to glory--the home run ball--went nowhere Sunday.
Two of the three hits were home runs--a two-run blast by Jose Valentin and solo shot from Rowand. It's the 37th time this season the Sox have hit multiple home runs in a game and only the 10th time they've lost.
Valentin's homer in the third inning gave the Sox a 2-0 lead off Mulder. But the A's came right back in their half with a run on doubles by Mark Kotsay and Jermaine Dye off Esteban Loaiza.
Rowand's homer in the top of the sixth gave the Sox a 3-1 lead, but again the A's came back in their half with three runs off Loaiza, the biggest blow a two-run homer from rookie shortstop Bobby Crosby that barely eluded the leaping Rowand in center.
"I had a 2-2 count and threw a fastball and it hit Rowand's glove and went over the wall," Loaiza said. "Other than that, I think I threw the ball well and I felt really good."
It was Loaiza's best outing since June 17 at Florida. He went seven innings, allowing seven hits and four runs. He walked four and struggled with the strike zone of home plate umpire Angel Hernandez.
"I worked more outside and it was one thing where I wasn't getting the call," Loaiza said. "A lot of people know I wasn't getting the strike on the outside corner and I wasn't getting it all day. That's the bottom line."
Once again, Loaiza had little margin for error. Mulder's only mistakes were the two home runs. He struck out eight in 81/3 innings. Octavio Dotel sandwiched strikeouts of Magglio Ordonez and Paul Konerko around a Carlos Lee walk forthe save.
Barring a return trip in the postseason, the Sox are thankfully finished playing in Oakland this season. They lost five of the six games this season and are 2-16 in their last 18 games here.
"I don't know if we are snake-bit here," Rowand said. "It's not like we haven't played well here. The record doesn't show how many one-run games we've lost here. When we come here, the one-run games go in their favor more often than not."
After facing a pitching staff that is second in the American League in ERA, the Sox travel to Texas and Cleveland, where they hope to find their offense again.
The flip side is they are 19-24 on the road and the Rangers and Indians are a combined 21 games over .500 at home this season.
"We have to come back [Monday] against a tough Texas team and try for a couple of wins," Rowand said.