The White Sox suffered a flat tire Friday night on the way to the All-Star break.

Gavin Floyd, who steered his way to a team-leading 10 victories and fulfilled some of the potential the Sox forecast for him, had his worst outing of the season in a 7-2 loss at Texas.

Floyd walked a career-high seven in only 22/3 innings. The lone Sox highlight was that recently promoted D.J. Carrasco saved the rest of a fatigued bullpen when he threw 78 pitches in 51/3—six fewer pitches than Floyd.

"That's the highlight of July right now," said manager Ozzie Guillen, who raved about Carrasco's ability to slow down a potent Rangers offense and preserve his relievers for the final two games before the break.

The loss cut the Sox's lead in the AL Central to 11/2 games over second-place Minnesota.

The Sox can assure themselves of ending the first half in first place with a victory or Twins loss Saturday or Sunday, but Guillen told his players during their pre-series scouting meeting that he didn't want their minds drifting toward their All-Star break plans.

"I hope their minds are not 'What time I'm leaving and when my family is going or what time is it going to be?' " Guillen said. "That's the reason I gave them four days off [during the break], to makes sure they go out and perform in these games.

"It's human nature when you think, 'Thank God, the second half is coming up. I'm struggling. I'm tired. The reason is, what time am I leaving, how many people at my house? Am I going to watch the All-Star Game or not?'

"They can't tell me anything. I played and played for a lot of years and that goes through their mind. Hopefully, those guys erase that and play the best they can for the next two days."

Floyd hadn't walked more than four in any previous start this season, but pitching coach Don Cooper sensed some warning signs as he made trips to the mound in the first and in third innings before Guillen pulled Floyd after he issued a bases-loaded walk to Ramon Vazquez.

"The only pitch I had some command of was my fastball," said Floyd, who didn't experience any control problems while warming up. "But not showing anything else but your fastball makes it tough to pitch."

Carrasco, 31, was making his first major-league appearance since Sept. 29, 2005, at Minnesota while pitching for Kansas City. He admitted he felt some "jitters" when he walked Michael Young to force in a run after relieving Floyd but settled down and drew praise from Guillen.

"He gave me the chance to win the next couple of days," Guillen said. "That's big. We cannot appreciate his effort enough for what he did."

Trailing 6-1 in the fourth, Carlos Quentin was thrown out at home plate trying to score from third on Jim Thome's fly to left. And Orlando Cabrera was nailed easily while trying to stretch a single into a double to start the sixth.

Though Thome hit his 17th homer in the seventh, the bottom four hitters in the White Sox's batting order— Paul Konerko, Nick Swisher, Joe Crede and Alexei Ramirez—were a combined 0-for-12 Friday night.

Konerko struck out three times and is 2-for-15 since coming off the 15-day disabled list.

mgonzales@tribune.com