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Sox's bats stifled by Santana
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07/27/2004 11:00 PM ET 
Sox's bats stifled by Santana
Chicago is held to two hits by Twins' starter

Juan Uribe drops the ball, allowing Corey Koskie to slide safely into second base. (Brian Kersey/AP)
CHICAGO -- Johan Santana dazzled and dominated, the White Sox's offense staggered and sputtered and Tuesday's game went off without any retribution for Torii Hunter's questionable plowing over of catcher Jamie Burke on Monday night.

The Twins actually sent a more forceful message than Hunter's eighth-inning torpedo shot on Burke, claiming a 7-3 victory before a sometimes electric sellout crowd of 37,528 at U.S. Cellular Field. Minnesota (56-44) raised its lead in the American League Central to 2 1/2 games by virtue of two victories to open this three-game set in Chicago.

Hitting Corey Koskie three times, tying a Major League record and marking the 21st time in the history of the game that it's happened, could have been construed as the White Sox's answer to Hunter's play in Game 1. Instead, Ozzie Guillen said they all were incidental, although the third one coming with one out and one on in the eighth earned both benches a warning from home plate umpire and crew chief Ed Montague.

"The first time, Freddy tried to pitch in and another one was a slider," said the White Sox manager of plunking Koskie three times. "But the umpire was right. He's trying to protect the players and I don't blame him.

"I told him that I wouldn't bring in the lefty (Damaso Marte) to hit the guy with the game on the line. Still, he made a good call after the kid was hit three times."

The White Sox actually needed some sort of protection from Santana (9-6). The Minnesota left-hander was virtually unhittable for six innings, allowing only a Ben Davis single, as he improved to 7-2 with a 1.42 ERA over his last 10 starts. Santana has struck out 100 batters during that stretch, compared to just 17 walks.

Santana also has allowed just three earned runs in 14 innings during his last two starts against the White Sox, striking out 18. He topped Freddy Garcia (8-9), who gave up four earned runs over 7 1/3 innings, just as Brad Radke bested Mark Buehrle on Monday in the first battle of aces.

"With Buehrle and Garcia, we never thought those two guys would get beat like that," said White Sox shortstop Jose Valentin, who is 0-for-8 in the first two games of the series. "But the Twins have good at-bats, a good approach, and that's how we are getting beat."

Actually, the White Sox (52-45) have dropped three in a row at home for the first time in almost one year because they aren't hitting. The South Siders have knocked out five home runs during the first two games of the series, including two by Carlos Lee and one from Carl Everett on Tuesday, but they have been outscored by a 13-5 margin.

"I was telling my coaches that I guarantee we lead the league in home runs with nobody on base," Guillen said. "The big guys are doing their job, coming through with big hits, but the bases are always empty."

Lee launched his 18th home run on an 0-2 pitch to start the seventh, breaking a string of 11 in a row retired by Santana, and the White Sox looked to be on the verge of another late-inning comeback. Lee added his 19th home run leading off the ninth, giving him 13 in the month of July.

Paul Konerko drew a walk from Santana following the Lee blast, and Santana hit Everett with a 1-2 pitch to put runners on first and second with nobody out. But reliever Juan Rincon induced a fly ball to center from Joe Crede, hauled in by a slick running catch from Hunter, and struck out Joe Borchard and Juan Uribe to end the inning.

Uribe tried to check his swing on the 2-2 offering from Rincon. But first base umpire Jerry Meals ruled that he went around.

"They got the bunts down, moved the guy over and executed their hit and runs," Guillen said of Minnesota. "They made the big plays and made the big pitches."

"Santana was real tough, but we didn't put any pressure on him today," Valentin added. "We aren't doing our job right now, and we've been outplayed the last two games."

Garcia matched Santana pitch-for-pitch through four innings, allowing nothing more than Shannon Stewart's single to open the game. But with two outs in the fifth and Koskie on second, Stewart and Cristian Guzman delivered back-to-back doubles and Lew Ford singled to left for a 3-0 Minnesota lead.

"I had one bad inning and got a couple of pitches up," said Garcia, who fell to 4-2 with the White Sox, of the fifth inning.

"He got some pitches up and we whacked him around a little bit," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire added of Garcia. "Still, he pitched his tail off."

Esteban Loaiza battles Carlos Silva during Wednesday afternoon's series finale.

The focus for the White Sox is to avoid the sweep and stay closer to the Twins, who are in first place, than the Indians, in third.

"We are down but have to come back tomorrow and forget about the two games and go out and play hard," Valentin said. "We can't let those guys take three in here. We need to get the last one, go on the road and play better baseball."

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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