- Melissa Isaacson, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- In the book that Ozzie Guillen said he will someday write on the 2010 season, Tuesday night's chapter would perhaps be titled: The %$#@ Twins are in town. Who gives a %#$&?.
It's the attitude Guillen and his team took into a series that appeared to many of us to carry some added importance, but seemed only to irritate the Sox skipper and his team. And it no doubt will accompany them into Wednesday night's second game after they got roughed up 12-6 in an ugly opener.
The lone bright spot: Slumping Carlos Quentin, moved down to seventh in the order, responded with a three-run home run in his first at-bat to breathe a little life into the Sox after an early 5-0 Minnesota lead.
The bad news: Freddy Garcia getting lit up for six earned runs on eight hits -- including three of the Twins' five home runs on the night -- in 2 1/3 innings. Scott Baker has now won seven of eight starts versus the Sox since the start of 2008.
The part we're supposed to not care about: The Twins, who play the Sox five more times in the next eight games, now occupy first place in the AL Central, one game up on Chicago, which had held the position since July 10.
"I don't know why people are panicking," Guillen said before the game. "The way I look at it, it's one game. And we've got to take it that way. It's a big game for us, but it's a big game for everybody. It was a big game [Monday] in Baltimore. It was a big game against Detroit. It's a big game today and tomorrow against Minnesota, and then Detroit. . . . "
Did Tuesday night's victory not mean that much in the scheme of things to the Twins either?
"Sure it does," said Minnesota skipper Ron Gardenhire, not playing along. "You want to be on top. But it's not the end of the world either."
At the risk of not making too much out of this, Tuesday's Sox pasting does come on the heels of losing three out of four to a team with the worst record in baseball. Granted, the Sox caught the Orioles during the classic new manager/artificial jolt period. But the Sox also managed just 10 runs in that series.
Returning home, where they had won 20 of their past 22, was supposed to snap the Sox out of their mini-slump. And Guillen wondered, in that way he has of wondering, why that wasn't the focus.
"I saw the headlines today -- 'Minnesota is in town.' Who gives a [damn] who's in town? How about 'The White Sox are back in Chicago after a long trip?' " Guillen said.
No one had the heart to tell him his headline was a little long and lacked a certain ring to it.
"I just feel we should get more credit," he said. "I feel like when we come home, it's like we're going to play in Japan, where we don't know anybody, or Venezuela."
It's a familiar theme and it would not be an exaggeration to say that those who cover the Sox on a daily basis found their eyes involuntarily glazing over as Guillen spoke.
But the crowd of 30,900 Tuesday night, while probably considered acceptable to the Sox, is still disappointing for the biggest series of the season thus far. And Guillen's point, we're pretty sure, is that his team is in a pennant race, a fact still worthy of arched eyebrows from anyone who has paid any attention during the team's 39-16 run.
"A couple months ago, we were supposed to be playing for fun," he said.
Guillen remains resolute that he's happy with the team he has going down the stretch, perhaps even more, he said, after "getting more involved and asking more questions" of general manager Kenny Williams lately.
"It's not easy," Guillen said. "Do you know what we need? Carlos [Quentin], Andruw [Jones], [Mark] Kotsay [to start hitting]. ... If those guys do what they're supposed to do -- no more, no less -- we'll be fine."
Jones appears to be a lost cause. Kotsay went 2-for-4 Tuesday night and is now hitting .233, and Quentin simply must snap out of it.
Before the game, Guillen said he moved Quentin down to the seventh hole (he has batted fifth 43 times and sixth 36 times) in an effort to get him to relax and not put so much pressure on himself.
"Right now I see Carlos swinging the bat and he's looking like a lion who got out of the cage," Guillen said.
In his first at-bat, Quentin drove a fastball outside on a straight line 383 feet over the right-field fence for a three-run home run, pumping his fist as he rounded first.
"When Carlos is going good, he has as good an eye and plate discipline as anybody in the game," Sox hitting coach Greg Walker said. "And when he's going bad, he's got it as bad as anybody."
Assuming Quentin finds his groove and with Gordon Beckham returning Wednesday from a pulled groin in Sunday's game, there is no compelling reason to think the Sox's offense will stop producing.
But there is no compelling reason to think the Twins will disappear either. With Tuesday's victory, Minnesota has now won 14 of its past 18, moving up in the standings despite the month-long absence of All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau with a concussion and with shortstop Nick Punto on the 15-day DL with a strained hamstring.
The two teams meet for another three-game set at Target Field next week and for a final three-game series at U.S. Cellular on Sept. 14-16.
"It only matters where we're at the last game of the year. There's a long way to go," Paul Konerko cautioned after Tuesday's loss, characterizing the Sox's play as "not good, not bad, we're kind of in the middle right now."
As for Guillen, he said before Tuesday's game that if he writes a book, it will be about this team and this season.
"With all respect to the 2005 and 2008 teams, I feel more proud of this ballclub than any team I have ever managed ... for all the [bull] they have to go through, all the stuff off the field and look at where they are right now," he said. "I feel proud of them. Maybe other people don't but I do. Maybe we don't win another game the rest of the season, and I will still feel the same way because they battled their butts off.
"I hope I manage better teams in the future but this team will always be in the top of my mind because of what they did and what they're doing. To me as a manager, it is really, really special to me. Really."
After Tuesday night, he might have needed just one more really.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
Ozzie Guillen plays up his team, downplays importance of beating Twins.