© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

09/18/08 11:56 PM ET

White Sox drop series in New York

Vazquez struggles as AL Central lead is trimmed to 1 1/2 games

NEW YORK -- It took Ozzie Guillen one disparaging word to describe his team's 9-2 loss before 53,152 at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night.

That same word could have described the White Sox overall American League Central fortunes as they stood late Thursday night, after the Twins (83-70) rallied for five in the top of the ninth to beat the Rays, 11-8.

"Horrible," said Guillen, looking as exhausted as his team did at times on the field, as the Yankees won for the third time in this four-game series and dropped the White Sox division lead to 1 1/2 games.

"We didn't pitch well, we didn't hit at all," Guillen added. "We don't have anything going forward right now. If we want to get to where we want to get, we better start playing better, in general."

The White Sox (84-68) scored one run in the first inning of Thursday's loss and loaded the bases with two outs against Mike Mussina (18-9), before Alexei Ramirez grounded out to second baseman Robinson Cano to end the threat. By the time the seventh inning mercifully rolled around, the White Sox lineup looked more like a Spring Training road game in Peoria, Ariz., than the team's final contest played in the history of Yankee Stadium.

Josh Fields was working at third base and hitting leadoff. Paul Phillips was catching and hitting second. Jerry Owens was in left field and batting third, while Jason Bourgeois had entered as a replacement at second base for Ramirez. Brian Anderson also delivered a pinch-hit double for Ken Griffey Jr. and then took over in center field.

Juan Uribe, who started at third base, eventually played shortstop and second base before the night was complete.

Not exactly the statement the South Siders wanted to make in pursuit of locking down the AL Central title. According to shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who had two of the team's seven hits, there's a noticeable hole in this top-flight squad that has lost three of its past four and posted a 4-6 mark in its past 10.

"Something is missing, and I don't know what it is," said Cabrera, pausing for about 10 seconds before answering a question as to the feeling he had concerning the team going into a weekend series at Kansas City. "Hopefully, we get it back in the next series, get that confidence back. That's what I don't see."

Along with also not seeing much hitting on Thursday, finishing 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, the White Sox didn't receive a quality start from Javier Vazquez (12-14). The right-hander was coming off his best effort of the season in shutting down Detroit over 7 2/3 innings on Sunday, but working on three days' rest, Vazquez made his shortest stint since lasting two innings against Atlanta on Aug. 14, 2005.

Vazquez allowed seven runs -- six earned -- on six hits over 3 2/3 innings, throwing 88 pitches, two of which were launched over the right-field wall and to the Yankees' faithful by Bobby Abreu. Vazquez also walked four, a lack of control that Guillen pointed to as more of a problem then Vazquez starting outside of his normal routine.

"There's one thing to pitch on short rest, and there's one thing to not be around the plate," said Guillen of Vazquez, who slipped to 0-4 lifetime in four career starts on three days' rest or fewer. "If you are not throwing strikes, it doesn't matter if you are pitching on one, two or 10 days' rest. You won't have success."

"I felt good, but I was just all over the place," Vazquez added. "I wasn't aggressive enough."

With nine games remaining in the regular season, the White Sox don't exactly need to be more aggressive in order to finish off their second AL Central title in four years. They do need to add that missing intangible, spoken of by Guillen and Cabrera, maybe that closing hunger, to hold off Minnesota.

Gardenhire's crew looked just about done, until it picked up a late boost of momentum in the ninth inning against Tampa Bay. Coupled with the loss at Yankee Stadium, it was a "horrible" night for the South Siders.

"We just have to keep battling," Vazquez said. "We've lost some games, and Minnesota has lost some. Tonight, they won and we lost. It's going to be back and forth."

"There's only a week and a half left, and we have to keep fighting because nobody said it was going to be easy," Guillen added. "But we fight all the way, so why do we have to lay down now? We aren't playing right now like we are in a pennant race, and if we keep playing like that, it will be tough for us to make the playoffs."

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