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White Sox swept by North Siders
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07/04/2004 10:37 PM ET 
White Sox swept by North Siders
Bullpen unable to hold tie ballgame in ninth

Shingo Takatsu (right) suffered his first loss of the season Sunday. (Brian Kersey/AP)
CHICAGO -- As fireworks rose up off in the distance, miles beyond Wrigley Field, the White Sox offense fizzled out for the third and final time this weekend on the North Side.

They didn't burn out without one final big bang, however. But not even Carlos Lee's two-strike, one-out home run off LaTroy Hawkins in the top of the ninth could provide enough momentum to prevent the Cubs' 2-1 victory before 38,596 frenzied fans.

The victory completed the Cubs' first three-game sweep in the series since 1998 and gave them the city bragging rights for 2004, with four victories in six games. The Cubs (46-35) stayed three behind St. Louis and atop the National League Wild Card standings, while the White Sox remained in a virtual deadlock for leadership in the American League Central.

Losing three in a row was far from the perfect way to end this six-game road trip. But the White Sox knocked six games against playoff contenders off the schedule and survived on seven runs of offense in the final four contests.

   Carlos Lee  /   LF
Born: 06/20/76
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 240 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"As poorly as we have swung the bat, we are still tied for first," said White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker, of his offense, which has a .159 average (19-for-113) over the last four games. "We are scuffling, no doubt about it.

"But we can't panic. It's unrealistic to think we are going to swing the bat as well as we have all season. We are at a point again where we are going to see what we are made of."

Dropping games started by Carlos Zambrano, a National League All-Star, or Greg Maddux, four wins short of 300, were not stunners for the White Sox (42-36). But managing four singles and a fourth-inning double from Lee off Glendon Rusch was a bit surprising.

Rusch changed speeds affectively and took advantage of a consistently wide strike zone to strike out six, leaving after eight with a 1-0 lead. The biggest threat for the White Sox came in the seventh, with runners on second and third and one out, but Joe Crede popped out to third and Timo Perez flew out to center to end the inning.

"[Rusch] threw some good pitches and didn't leave a lot out there over the middle of the plate," said White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand. "But we flat out didn't swing the bats. We are not swinging well as a team -- it's not one or two people."

   Mark Buehrle  /   P
Born: 03/23/79
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

Mark Buehrle kept the White Sox close, allowing Derrek Lee's 11th home run in the second and not much more. Lee finished with three of the four hits off Buehrle, causing the left-hander to joke that he might have thrown a no-hitter if Lee wasn't in the lineup. Buehrle matched a season high with eight strikeouts.

The White Sox's Lee tied the game with a line shot to the left-center field bleachers in the ninth, taking Buehrle off the hook. But the Cubs rallied for the game-winner in the bottom half of the inning.

Moises Alou's single and two walks from Shingo Takatsu (4-1) loaded the bases, bringing in left-handed reliever Damaso Marte to face left-handed pinch-hitter Todd Walker. After falling behind 0-2, Walker fouled off a couple of eye-high 95-mph fastballs to stay alive and eventually worked the count full.

Marte threw the next pitch low and away, forcing in the game-winner.

"I did it the right way. I tried to throw the fastball up, but it didn't work," Marte said. "I can't throw the pitch in the middle because, if he made contact, the game could be over. He's a good hitter and worked hard to get my pitches."

"When you're down 0-2, it's a battle," Todd Walker added. "He's one of the nastiest lefties a left-hander has to face."

   Damaso Marte  /   P
Born: 02/14/75
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

The White Sox played at a distinct disadvantage in National League stadiums, with Frank Thomas out of the lineup all three games this weekend. He struck out against Rusch in a pinch-hitting role Sunday, just as he did against Greg Maddux on Saturday and Francis Beltran on Friday.

Add in the absence of Magglio Ordonez and manager Ozzie Guillen having to use left-handed hitting Willie Harris and Perez against a left-handed starter, and the offensive slump becomes a little easier to understand. Sweeping Minnesota and losing all three to the Cubs worked out to the White Sox's advantage in terms of the division standings.

Of course, that does nothing for the legion of White Sox fans that at least wanted to break even with the Cubs. The return of the team's potent offense Tuesday against Anaheim would heal most of those wounds caused by the loss of bragging rights.

"A lot of people are disappointed by the losses to the Cubs," Guillen said. "Nobody is more disappointed than Ozzie Guillen. I'm the biggest White Sox fan in this town. Nobody wants to beat the Cubs or anybody more than me."

"If you look at it, we faced two tough teams on the trip and came out of here at .500," Rowand added. "As good as it could have been, you can't get too down about it."

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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