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Offense struggles in Sox loss to Angels

Offense struggles in Sox loss to Angels

ANAHEIM -- With the White Sox offensive woes continuing on for yet another day at the outset of the 2007 season, resulting in Friday's 5-1 loss to the Angels before a sellout crowd of 44,126 at Angel Stadium, one would figure that Ozzie Guillen might run out of ways to assess his team's futility.

But all it took was one postgame question about this very same topic to prove the White Sox manager was anything but at a loss for words concerning his team's current five-game losing streak. In fact, in very calm and direct tones, Guillen issued a postgame challenge to his team.

"I don't see no life there. I don't see no fire," said Guillen after the White Sox managed just one run on six hits off of Kelvim Escobar (3-1) and Scot Shields (second save). "Everybody is kind of flat. You can root for them so much, screaming and trying to pick them up. And I know it's not easy when you are not hitting.

"We've worked hard enough, and we have better talent than what we show. I don't see the reason we aren't better. We are facing good pitching, but we are better than what we show.

"If we start feeling sorry for ourselves, it's going to be a long summer for everyone," Guillen added. "We have to pick it up a notch, because I don't see anyone hungry enough."

Those comments were just the beginning for a frustrated Guillen, a feeling permeating a visitors' clubhouse featuring no starter with an average above Darin Erstad's mark of .258. Troubles with runners in scoring position continued on Friday for the White Sox (12-14), whose five hitless at-bats in this particular scenario left them 3-for-28 with runners in scoring position over the last seven games.

While the White Sox put the leadoff hitter on base against Escobar in four of his seven innings, the only run they scored came via Jermaine Dye's double with two outs in the third that brought home Tadahito Iguchi from first. Overall, though, Friday's contest was not one of the White Sox more shining moments.

It certainly started on a positive note, with Erstad receiving a standing ovation from the Angels' faithful, who clearly didn't forget his tremendous contributions in Anaheim from 1996-2006. Always the dedicated professional, though, Erstad truly appreciated the reaction but couldn't put the four-run loss behind him.

"That was great. It was awesome," said Erstad, who finished 1-for-4 during his first game as an opponent at Angel Stadium. "We just didn't get the win today so it was tough."

Jose Contreras (2-3) pitched well enough to win, allowing just one earned run on six hits over six innings, while striking out six and walking three. But the three unearned runs charged to the right-hander were partially of his own doing.

Erick Aybar led off the second with a bunt single, but Shea Hillenbrand followed with a grounder back to the mound that had the makings of a double play. Contreras' throw to Iguchi covering second tailed a bit toward the right-field side, but it looked to be a throw Iguchi could catch. Instead, the ball hit the edge of his glove and rolled into the outfield, putting runners at the corners with one out.

The mishaps continued with Mike Napoli's ensuing trip to the plate, as he lofted a long fly ball to Erstad in center that looked to be nothing more than a sacrifice fly. Erstad lost the ball, though, giving Napoli a double, and setting up the Angels (17-13) for a three-run inning, capped by Orlando Cabrera's two-run single with two outs.

"It's not the first time I've done that here," said Erstad of losing the fly ball in center. "That time of the night here is very tough. Just the wrong time."

Erstad also was tagged out by Aybar in the third when he slid past second base in an attempt to break up a double play. Instead of having two runners on base and one out, the White Sox rally had been squelched.

During the first three games of this eight-game, three-city road trip, the White Sox offense has produced just five runs on 16 hits. This seemingly potent group of hitters has not scored more than two runs in a game since a 7-3 victory over the Angels on April 27.

Those statistics were deemed as "embarrassing" by Guillen during his postgame soliloquy.

"You can go on a streak for a couple of days, but not for a month," Guillen said. "It's not fun. It's not fun, day in and day out, going through the same emotions. It's not fun, day in and day out, going through the same situations and it's not fun, day in and day out, talking to you guys about why we [aren't] hitting."

After just 26 games and with a mere five-game deficit to make up behind the American League Central-leading Indians, the White Sox certainly aren't hanging their heads. The past track records also are stacked in the South Siders' favor that Paul Konerko (.204), Dye (.216), Joe Crede (.206) and A.J. Pierzynski (.209) will rise from their first-month struggles.

If Guillen's postgame speech illustrated one point, it's that he's no longer tolerating a "we'll get them tomorrow" sort of attitude where his team is concerned.

"They have 100 at-bats already, and it's not cold anymore. If they want to make an excuse that we don't have [Jim] Thome or [Scott] Podsednik, that's a bad excuse," Guillen said. "They have to help themselves, and if they don't want to help themselves, it's going to be a long summer.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to get better. If I have to bench people, I will. If I have to make the lineup a different way to get a better lineup, I will. But right now is the time to stick together and believe in themselves."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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