The bar of success the White Sox raised during the first four months now appears to them as high as Mt. Everest.
The Sox have entered another cycle where their timely hitting has vanished and victories are no longer automatic when either Jon Garland or Mark Buehrle is pitching.
Their 10-5 loss Saturday to the Los Angeles Angels was a reflection of their recent shortcomings.
For the second consecutive time during their three-game losing streak, their co-aces failed to hold an early lead. And the offense failed to muster enough clutch hitting when the game was in doubt.
"That's what everyone wants, perfection," Garland said after losing for the second time in three starts. "There aren't too many times when you're going to get it. It's a grind out there. It's a tough game. It's not easy to go out and win a ballgame. And when you don't do it, it seems around here, you're the bad guy. You're not supposed to do that.
"It happens. Everyone has bad days, and everyone has good days. What goes around comes around. Hang with them."
The Sox (87-54), whose lead in the American League Central fell to 6½ games, are 12-19 against potential first-round playoff opponents the Athletics (2-7), Red Sox (3-4), Angels (4-5) and Yankees (3-3).
But the Sox are more concerned with regaining a semblance of consistency that typified their recent seven-game winning streak.
"We're losing some battles, but we still think we're going to win the war and get [to the playoffs]," first baseman Paul Konerko said. "It's frustrating. We want to try to close this thing out as quickly as we can.
"Cleveland isn't making it easy. They keep winning. We have to just keep playing. We're not right at the end. There are still 21 games left."
Bartolo Colon (19-6) strengthened his case for the AL Cy Young Award by winning his eighth consecutive decision, and the Sox helped him after Colon walked three consecutive batters in the second and trailed 2-0.
Aaron Rowand, who moved up to the third spot and had an RBI single in the first, swung at Colon's first pitch and flied to center to end the rally.
"It's not paying attention to what's happening in the game," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think you when come up in the rally, at least you got a better pitch to hit."
Rowand said Colon was barely missing on the walks and that he correctly guessed Colon would throw a fastball on the first pitch.
"It was just a gamble," Rowand said. "If I got a hit, everyone is happy."
Instead, the Angels pulled away in the middle innings. Steve Finley, starting for only the fourth time in 17 games while hitting .197 since the All-Star break, snapped a 2-2 tie with a homer in the fourth.
Garret Anderson snapped the Sox's backs with a three-run homer off Garland (17-9) in the fifth.
"All of a sudden, when you get the home run and Colon's pitching, you feel like a punch in your stomach," Guillen said. "It's hard to recover from that punch. The way [Colon] is pitching and the way we're hitting, it was a big shot."
The situation was so helpless Guillen lifted five starters for pinch-hitters in the seventh, and the Sox responded with two runs.
"I want to see better swings," Guillen laughed. "I think we did. The guys who came off the bench had better swings than the guys who were playing. And obviously, when you're down by that many runs against the Angels with the staff they have, I'd rather give those guys some rest and see a couple of guys get some at-bats."
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