With Monday's 7-0 loss against the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox magic number for elimination from playoff contention dwindled to six. The South Siders fell seven games behind American League Central-leading Detroit with 11 games remain.
To make the ladder-climbing task even more difficult, Minnesota (77-73) boosted its lead over Chicago for second place in the division to 4 1/2 games with the victory.
It certainly wasn't the way anybody in a White Sox uniform had hoped to begin this final stretch of 12 games, which has Chicago playing Minnesota and Detroit for nine of them.
"You do the math, we're still in it," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "But I don't think physically and mentally we're in. You can put all the math and say, 'If we lose here, if we win here, we have a chance because we're not out.' But we look at the ballclub day-in and day-out. You start to put doubts in your mind [about] if this thing is for real."
The math from Monday's game was not pretty.
Chicago was shut out for an American League-leading 13th time this season and for a second time in four games. And even though the White Sox collected eight hits, they were unable to produce an extra-base hit for the second consecutive contest.
"Mentally, it always wears on you when you are struggling, and a lot of us are struggling," said White Sox third baseman Gordon Beckham, who went 1-for-4. "We are still fighting. I know we haven't given up, but we are not playing very well. We have not played well for the last couple of weeks. It's frustrating it has come at this time."
Monday's loss spoiled a solid outing from South Siders rookie Daniel Hudson, who pitched admirably while making his first Major League start. But because Hudson didn't receive any run support, he took his first big league loss -- and his first loss at any level since June 15, a span of 14 starts. Hudson made it through five innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits with four strikeouts and four walks.
"It didn't really feel any different," Hudson said of starting in the big leagues. "Of course, you're out there in front of 26,000 people instead of 2,000 and you're in the middle of a playoff push, but that was really the only difference."
Hudson surrendered single runs in the first, second and fifth innings. In the first, Orlando Cabrera tripled off the glove of right fielder Jermaine Dye, who mistimed his dive. Cabrera then scored on catcher A.J. Pierzynski's passed ball for a quick 1-0 Twins lead.
With the bases loaded in the second, Hudson lost Denard Span on a full count, bringing in Delmon Young for a 2-0 edge. And in the fifth, Michael Cuddyer tallied a run-scoring single that scored Cabrera.
"[Hudson's] maybe got to get better on a few pitches, but he really did a good job," Guillen said. "He did better than what I [expected]."
Minnesota plugged in two more runs in the sixth, with both scores credited to reliever D.J. Carrasco. The Twins put another two-spot on the scoreboard in the eighth off reliever Tony Pena to put the game firmly out of reach.
Nick Blackburn (11-11) picked up the victory, scattering eight hits with six strikeouts while shutting down Chicago for seven innings.
The White Sox (73-78) lost their fifth game in six tries, having scored three runs or fewer in all of those losses.
And as Carlos Quentin grounded out to shortstop for the final out of Monday's game, the remaining fans from the announced crowd of 26,541 voiced their displeasure with a chorus of boos.
Neither Beckham nor Guillen could blame them.
"It's a pretty frustrating time for the White Sox," Beckham said. "We are just not fun to watch."
"[The fans] have a lot of faith in this ballclub like we do," Guillen said. "They come out and see this thing day-in and day-out, and, obviously, they're going to act that way. In the past, I've gotten mad at the fans about some stuff they've done with no reason. But right now, I'm behind them 100 percent. They're right. They pay money to watch a better baseball game, and right now, we're not doing it."
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.