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Manager Ozzie Guillen yearns for the day when he will have pleasant problems, such as deciding which outfielders to send down to the minors when Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad return from injuries.
But after losing for the ninth time in 11 games, any hope of the Sox gaining ground in the American League Central before playing divisional opponents again looks more ominous as the offense continued to struggle.
Guillen's plan to have the Sox run the bases aggressively Wednesday night was thwarted by Chien-Ming Wang, whose assortment of sinking pitches produced 15 groundouts in a complete-game effort as the New York Yankees grabbed a 5-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
"You can't put any emotion in when you don't get on base," Guillen said. "It feels like nine dead people walking. It's not easy when you're not hitting."
Wang (5-4) allowed only five singles. The Sox have scored three runs or fewer in six of their past seven games.
"I try to put the best lineup out there," Guillen said. "Maybe it's not working."
The Sox (26-29) employed their 45th lineup of the season. It featured the 2007 debut of third baseman Josh Fields, one of the organization's top prospects. Fields, who was called up from Triple-A-Charlotte, went 0-for-3 but will get more opportunities with Joe Crede on the 15-day disabled list because of two herniated disks in his lower back.
Before the game, Guillen was jokingly asked about managing a team of Charlotte graduates. Leadoff hitter Jerry Owens and Fields have spent most of the season playing for the Knights, as have reserves Andy Gonzalez and Luis Terrero.
But Guillen pointed to the Sox's run of good health in recent years. Podsednik and Crede were the only regular players who spent time (albeit limited) on the DL during the 2005 World Series championship season.
And last winter, trainer Herm Schneider received the 2006 Dick Martin Award for Medical Staff of the Year by Baseball Prospectus for using the DL only 34 times for 1,446 days—the lowest totals in the major leagues over the past five years.
"It's time to see what will happen," Guillen said of the next few weeks when his youngsters will be performing as Podsednik and Erstad recover.
The Sox have lots of room for improvement, as evidenced by their major league-low .233 team batting average. Jermaine Dye went 0-for-4 and is now 2-for-22. He hasn't hit a home run since May 22, the same day A.J. Pierzynski (5-for-29) scored his last run.
Guillen is considering making another lineup change that could give Dye a game off.
"I need some offense," Guillen said. "I'll try to give a chance to [Andy] Gonzalez and give [Juan] Uribe a day off or [Tadahito] Iguchi. I'll try to put the best offense we have out there."
Without much offense, the pitching staff has no margin for error. Sox starter Javier Vazquez was doomed by a four-run third. The first six Yankees in the inning reached base safely, and the damage would have been greater if Alex Rodriguez had not been nailed trying to stretch a single into a double and if Jorge Posada not been caught in a rundown after Hideki Matsui hit a sacrifice fly.
"Everyone has a job to do," Vazquez said. "My job was to keep us in the game. Those four runs hurt."