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Loss to Royals underscores White Sox’ troubles vs. AL Central

Chicago White Sox center fielder Brent Lillibridge misses fly ball  thwent for triple by Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar

Chicago White Sox center fielder Brent Lillibridge misses a fly ball that went for a triple by Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar during the second inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Tuesday, July 5, 2011. (AP Photo/ Paul Beaty)

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Updated: October 27, 2011 12:31AM

The White Sox’ record is what it is: A 43-44 mark after a 5-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals before 26,095 fans Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field. That tells us they’re an average team.

They’re also 32-22 since May 7, which translates into the second-best record in the American League in the last couple of months.

That tells us something else, but before we rate them too highly, consider the 7-12 record against a mediocre Central Division that could be captured with 80-something wins.

So when manager Ozzie Guillen was asked if his team should shoot for something like a 14-5 record in the current 19-game stretch against the Central, Guillen spoke the truth.

“We’re not that good,’’ Guillen said. “I wish I could say, ‘Well, we’re going to win 15 and lose two.’ We can do that, but we’re not doing it.’’

That said, these are crucial times for Guillen’s Sox, who are like the hardworking college grad who’s doing well for himself but paying off his student loans. The Sox are paying the price for that 11-22 start.

“The next three weeks are either going to have us out of it or right in the thick of things for the home stretch,’’ Guillen said.

Right-hander Jake Peavy (4-2) gave up five runs in a six-inning outing. Two walks and a hit batsman hurt Peavy in the Royals’ three-run second inning. The big hit was a two-run triple by ninth-place hitter Alcides Escobar that center fielder Brent Lillibridge couldn’t glove on the hop to keep it to a one-run double.

“When I get three runs, I expect to win,’’ Peavy said.

“No excuses. I didn’t get some close pitches, and I obviously didn’t have the command I normally have. It cost us there. The kid hit a pretty good pitch for the triple. No way I can walk [Billy] Butler and [Eric] Hosmer back to back. . . . It’s frustrating.”

Peavy probably deserved better in the Royals’ two-run sixth, his last inning, when Jeff Francoeur blooped a single to put runners on first and second. Peavy struck out Mike Moustakas on a slider in the dirt, but it hopped past catcher A.J. Pierzynski for a wild pitch, moving the runners into scoring position. Eighth-place hitter Matt Treanor then grounded a two-strike slider between third and short to score two runs and give the Royals a 5-3 lead. Peavy got the pitch down, but it got too much of the plate.

Paul Konerko homered in the second inning against Felipe Paulino. Konerko and Carlos Quentin had RBI singles in the third to make it 3-3.

But that was it for the timely hitting. They had 13 hits but were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Adam Dunn went 0-for-5, and Lillibridge, playing in place of Alex Rios, went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

“Thirteen hits and we only scored three runs, one by the home run,’’ Guillen said. “We struggle with people on base, and, like I preach, we have to get better at that. We need big hits in the clutch or we’re not going to win.’’

“It’s definitely not a recipe for winning,’’ Konerko said. “There’s going to be reasons why you lose, and that’s one of them, leaving guys out there. But wanting it to change and saying it doesn’t exactly make it happen. There were some balls hit with guys on — obviously an out is an out — but as you’re up there in those situations with the right intent, doing the right things, you’re not going to get it done every time. But you have to trust that will work over the long haul. For the most part, we were doing that.’’

Paulino (1-2) won his first game since beating the Cubs in June of last season. He struck out nine.

Asked if he believes the Sox are due for a long streak — they haven’t won more than four in a row — Konerko said, “I do. I think every team is going to have that streak during the season. Even a bad team, which I don’t think we are, is going to have that week and a half, two weeks where they just can’t do anything wrong, and we haven’t had that yet.’’

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