A tale of missed chances

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox cut superfluous cable channels in the press box this season, so no bored reporters -- yes, they exist -- could watch "Jersey Shore" during Thursday's game. "The Club" is the only reality show approved for reportorial consumption, I suppose.

I don't know if they get MTV in the clubhouse, but the Sox certainly could have used some Jersey Shore inspiration -- at least before the show becomes as outdated as a Cubs' ticket scalper.

Those notorious partiers could definitely teach this team a thing or two about beating the beat, disposing of grenades, and most importantly, closing the deal.

With a dispiriting 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins, the Sox have now lost four of five, dropping their first home series since June 3-5, falling to 21-23 in the AL Central and most importantly, 4-8 against Minnesota, which again has a one-game lead in the division.

But it's only one game, right?

"That's exactly what it is, is one game," Paul Konerko said. "That can lose a division, and it can also be made up in 24 hours."

Preach on, Paulie. There's not a person on either team who doesn't think this division will be decided by more than a game or two.

Before the Sox's 25-5 run that catapulted them from sellers to contenders, Konerko talked about how the initial leg of the Cubs-Sox series could be the spark they needed, and he was proved prophetic.

These losses, these disappointing series against Baltimore and Minnesota, could be a minor hiccup, or the start of a month-long belch.

The sky isn't falling on the South Side, but those are Sox fans craning their necks looking for a Jason Kubel-shaped asteroid.

A one-game deficit in the AL Central could balloon to three or four, with the Detroit Tigers in town this weekend and a trip to Minnesota next week. There are 47 games to go. Blink and it's 30. Then 20. Then 10, and next thing you know, you're making vacation plans in Costa Rica.

I'm not beating the negative drum, because I think this team has real potential. A few sloppy games don't change my mind, as much as open it. While I believe the Sox could make noise in October, I also believe in the Twins and their annual ubiquity around the top of the division.

And just as the Sox proved they were legit in June and July, it can all be undone with a bad August. It's happened before.

Taken by itself, Thursday's loss was pretty ugly. And the biggest cause for concern wasn't Gavin Floyd's high pitch count or Bobby Jenks' achy-breaky back, it was the offense, which produced April results.

The punchless Sox lost because they went 1-for-7 in three innings in which they had the bases loaded -- failing to score in the fifth with no outs and the sixth with one -- and scored their only run when A.J. Pierzynski nubbed a two-out holy roller down the third-base line in the first inning. The Sox stranded 12 men overall.

These are the kind of losses that make Ozzie Guillen reach for the Grecian Formula. But he was sanguine after the game.

"I don't think it's a tougher loss, we just missed a lot of opportunities offensively," Guillen said. "We had people on base almost every inning and we couldn't get a base hit."

Chicago's only winning baseball team put on a clinic Thursday night on how to lose, loading the bases in the first, fifth and sixth.

After giving up one run in each of the first three innings before an implosion in the seventh, Gavin Floyd took his second loss since starting a stellar run since June 8, with both L's coming against Minnesota.

That's not a coincidence, by the way. John Danks has struggled against Minnesota his whole career, but tamed the Twins on Wednesday. Floyd couldn't follow suit.

Floyd threw 125 pitches in 6⅓, looooong innings. Floyd gave up a run in each of the first three innings and threw three scoreless frames before Kubel bashed a three-run homer on an 0-2 pitch in the seventh to break open a 3-1 game.

On a muggy night, it's fair to say Floyd should've been gone already. Guillen met with the pitcher before Kubel came up, and as it so often seems to happen, Kubel made them pay. Guillen said he had no interest in pulling Floyd.

"Gavin was throwing the ball very good," Guillen said. "I gave him the opportunity to finish it up, like I do with all my pitchers. Bad pitch. He made a bad pitch. He threw a strike, hung a breaking ball over the plate. Home run."

The difference in the game was that Kubel took advantage of a bad pitch, while the Sox flailed at Francisco Liriano's array of sliders, fastballs, cutters and sinkers when it really mattered.

In the fifth, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs, thanks to a Gordon Beckham walk, a fielding error in left by Delmon Young and an Alexei Ramirez bunt single.

Alex Rios grounded out to Liriano on a nasty cutter, who nailed Beckham at home, and Liriano struck out Konerko on three sliders and after a long battle, got Carlos Quentin on a slider.

Liriano was pretty nasty, but he only struck out four and threw 106 pitches in 5⅓ innings.

"He had it going on tonight," Rios said. "He was throwing in; he had that slider. It was pretty tough to stay on it. He was throwing sinkers in and cutters."

In the sixth, the Sox loaded the bases with a Pierzynski single, an Omar Vizquel double, and Beckham getting hit. Juan Pierre lined out to center, ending Liriano's night. Matt Guerrier got Alexei Ramirez to end the inning on a broken-bat flyball to Alexi Casilla.

Even Hawk Harrelson couldn't yell "Stretch!" on that one.

And that ends our in-depth rundown of the Sox's blown chances of the evening.

Maybe a few players missed their exits on their drive home or couldn't snag a table at Big Star.

Needless to say, the Cell-Out crowd of 33,237 (i.e. not an actual sellout, but as close as it seems to get on the South Side) was not pleased with the performance. Boos were only superseded by the cheers of the multitude of Twins fans that made the game.

The White Sox couldn't have won anything this week but a series against their biggest rival. And Thursday's loss only counts as one game in the standings.

We'll see how that works out next month.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He can be followed at Twitter.com/espnchijon.