NEW YORK -- After Friday's seven-run shellacking of the Yankees, the White Sox held a season-best 3 1/2-game lead over the Indians in the American League Central and looked well on their way to a momentum-changing road trip through Minneapolis and the Bronx.
Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans.
Hiroki Kuroda shut down the White Sox on Saturday, and Phil Hughes basically followed suit on Sunday in New York's 4-2 victory over the South Siders before 48,324 at Yankee Stadium. Back-to-back losses for the White Sox (42-37) trimmed their lead to 1 1/2 games over the Indians (40-38) and three games over the Tigers (39-40), but this week's work away from home still represented an increase in their edge atop the division.
"You just continue to play," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who didn't put much stock in the lead increase before the halfway point of the season. "That stuff is way down the road. We're just worrying about what we are doing right now."
What the White Sox did on Sunday was watch starter Gavin Floyd (6-8) battle through 5 1/3 innings, which took him a season-high 122 pitches to cover. The White Sox right-hander yielded eight hits, walked five and threw in a wild pitch for good measure. Yet the main reason for the Yankees' victory was two swings of the bat.
In the second inning, it was Eric Chavez who launched a two-run game-tying blast to right off Floyd. And it was All-Star Robinson Cano who delivered what would be the game-winner in the third, a two-run laser to right-center following a free pass to Mark Teixeira.
"I made a bad pitch to him," said Floyd of Cano's second homer in as many games. "I wasn't hitting everything, but I was still trying to continue to make one pitch at a time and get guys out. The pitch to Cano was a 3-2 count, I believe, and you can't be in the middle of the plate with him."
"Gavin struggled, but he fought," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "I only thought he made one bad pitch, and that was to Cano. The pitch Chavez hit out wasn't a horrible pitch. It was down and in, but at this stadium, that's the place you kind of try to stay away from.
"We scored two runs in the first and [Hughes] settled in, and we didn't have a lot of opportunities. Gavin should be proud. First inning, bases loaded versus Cano, and he got out of it with no runs. He fought to keep us in the game, and that's all you can ask."
Alejandro De Aza's double and Kevin Youkilis' single produced a first-inning White Sox run off Hughes just two batters into the game. Derek Jeter's great defensive play on a hard-hit Paul Konerko grounder with the infield in kept Youkilis at third, but Alex Rios followed with a two-out single to give the White Sox a quick 2-0 advantage.
That lead didn't look as if it would hold up long, as Pierzynski referenced above. Jeter and Curtis Granderson singled and Teixeira walked, bringing up Cano, one of the game's most dangerous hitters, with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom half of the frame.
Cano tapped back to Floyd, who started a 1-2-3 double play. Floyd then struck out Nick Swisher to end the rally.
Hughes allowed a two-out single to Konerko and a two-out double to Rios in the third, but Pierzynski's popout to Chavez kept the White Sox off the board. Pierzynski's broken-bat single in the sixth marked the only other hit off Hughes (9-6) over eight innings, before the right-hander gave way to Rafael Soriano, who earned his 18th save.
Leyson Septimo, who was called up on Thursday to replace Will Ohman, was efficient over 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, retiring the first five batters on just 10 pitches. But it wasn't enough to prevent the White Sox second straight loss to the Yankees, giving the South Siders that 4-3 road ledger.
"We came back and won these two, and that's good," Cano said. "If you don't win [the series], you want to split. When you lose the first two, you have to give credit to the other team. They did the little things."
"When you come in here and split, you get out of here feeling pretty good," said Ventura, acknowledging that it would have looked better to win one more after his club took the first two.
Home series against the Rangers and Blue Jays will finish up the first half for the White Sox, as they try to hold their AL Central lead into the All-Star break.
"Any time you go on the road to Minnesota and New York, you have to be pretty happy with that [showing]," said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn of his team's week of action. "We have an off-day [Monday], which is probably much-needed for a lot of people, and we have six big games coming up."