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It was a bad night for two pitchers the White Sox counted on and for those who are counting magic numbers.
With new main closer Bobby Jenks blowing the save and left-handed closer Damaso Marte charged with the loss, the White Sox bowed to Cleveland 7-5 Monday night, keeping their magic number for winning the Central Division at 11 and lowering their lead to 2 1/2, making the next two games against the Indians even more important.
"We can't go out there [Tuesday] and say that's it. If we lose [Tuesday] it ain't the end of the season," said Mark Buehrle, the Sox starter charged with stopping the Indians' winning streak at six games and slowing down their charge that has reached 13 victories in 14 games.
"I'm going to throw like I do any other time. I'm not going to put pressure on myself, like if we lose we're down to one-half game or whatever. I'm going to go out there and attack hitters like I always do."
It may not be one-half game yet, but it's time for the Sox to be concerned. Their fans are already.
"I'll be concerned when we're one game behind," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Until then, we're going to show up and keep fighting."
If they keep losing, the Sox will have something else to fight for: The wild-card lead.
With the victory, the Indians' lead over the Yankees in the wild-card race remained at 1 1/2 games, and they jumped past Boston for the second-best record in the American League, all of which is very important if the White Sox should need the wild card to get into the playoffs.
"If you're going to be nervous, all of a sudden you're going to lose what you have," Guillen said.
Guillen tried to stay optimistic, saying, "I like the way we played the game and the way we battled. I think the players can sleep good."
But the truth is the White Sox let a 5-4 eighth-inning lead slip away in front of 35,748 fans on a warm September night.
Marte, making his first appearance at home since his meltdown against Kansas City, retired one hitter but put two others on base, one with a walk and one with a double.
Jenks blew his first save on his first night as closer by allowing a two-run single by Aaron Boone.
Former closer Dustin Hermanson gave up the final run in the ninth inning.
The Sox had taken a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh on a longand long-awaitedhome run by Carl Everett, his first since Sept. 2.
Sox starter Freddy Garcia survived 6 1/3 innings by staying away from big rallies but left in a 4-4 tie. He has won only once in his last nine starts, which includes four no-decisions.
Cleveland starter Kevin Millwood also left with the game tied, although three of his runs were unearned, the second time in 11 starts he had allowed that many runs. He remains the American League ERA leader, lowering it to 2.97.
"The pitching was better for them," Guillen said. "[Garcia's] control was not there."
Guillen had talked about skipping Garcia's turn Monday, but with Brandon McCarthy starting Thursday, he is out of pitchers.
"There is nothing we can do," Guillen said. "I believe in [Garcia]. He's got to get better."
And so do the Sox.
Garcia has allowed a run in the first inning in 14 of his last 21 starts for a total of 23 runs. The Sox rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the fifth, capped by Paul Konerko's two-run double.
"They're right there," Konerko said of the Indians, "but that doesn't mean we have to lose just because they gained so much ground."