The White Sox's margin of error was so thin Tuesday night that one pitch cost Freddy Garcia a no-hitter, a shutout and a shot at a well-deserved victory over 2004 American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.
Jacque Jones ended a suspenseful showdown by ripping a 1-2 pitch over the center-field fence to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning and vault Minnesota to a 1-0 victory.
The loss was a culmination of Garcia's tough luck and the Sox's offensive woes as their lead in the AL Central shrunk to seven games over Cleveland, the Indians' smallest deficit since April 29.
As well as Garcia pitched, he immediately went to the back of the clubhouse to watch a video replay of Jones' homer.
"It was a pretty good pitch, but I think he was looking for it," Garcia said of a curve Jones whacked. "As soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone."
That was the only ball that didn't seem catchable, as fellow Venezuelans Garcia and Santana were supported by superb defense.
Twins left fielder Shannon Stewart crashed into the wall to catch Paul Konerko's drive near the top of the fence in the fourth and left because of a strained left shoulder.
In the top of the eighth, Twins center fielder Lew Ford sprinted to catch Pablo Ozuna's drive before crashing into the wall.
And Garcia took his no-hitter into the bottom of the eighth largely because Jermaine Dye leaped sideways against the right-field fence to rob Nick Punto of what could have scored the first run in the sixth. Dye was on the ground for several moments after injuring his left shoulder but stayed in the game.
"This was just an unbelievable game to play in, and I'm not going to talk to Jermaine Dye for a couple of days," Punto quipped.
While the Twins (67-58) were in a joking mood, the Sox (75-47) were more obsessed with rebounding from the tough loss than dwelling on the fact that they have lost eight of their last nine.
"It's a heartbreaker because you don't want to see your pitcher [lose] that way," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "But we played well and did the best we can to win that game."
Ozuna had two of the Sox's three hits but was stranded at second twice.
After a leadoff walk to Carl Everett in the fourth, Santana (13-6) retired 15 of his final 16 batters.
Before the game, Guillen taped to the clubhouse wall a Minneapolis Star Tribune column saying the Sox have been known to "choke" in the second half, quoting Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire as saying he hoped to "put some fear in them" and reporting Gardenhire's revelation that he'd been told by owner Carl Pohlad that Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was "squirming."
Guillen said he posted the column, which highlighted several comments and quotes, to motivate his players to prove people wrong.
The Sox isolated this loss from their previous seven setbacks, highlighted by a stretch in which they scored only two runs in 36 innings.
"Our team, believe it or not, got better in that game," Konerko said. "This loss is a different loss than what happened last week. Guys went about it the right way against one of the toughest guys in the league.
"If we keep playing like that, it will turn. I've seen a lot of bad things going our way to get to where we're at. I see something going on the upswing. It's still in our hands."
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