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White Sox swept by Angels, losing streak reaches five

Albert Pujols congratulates Kendrys Morales who hit two-run home run sixth inning. | Mark J. Terrill~AP

Albert Pujols congratulates Kendrys Morales, who hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning. | Mark J. Terrill~AP

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Updated: November 15, 2012 9:38PM

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Swept away in California and hoping desperately to rediscover enough offense to get them through the last 10 games of the season, the run-starved White Sox returned home Sunday night for the purpose of winning the American League Central.

While the Sox know they’ll have to do an about-face this week to make it relevant — even if the Detroit Tigers refuse to take charge of the division as they have all season — it has seemed likely for weeks now that the AL Central will be decided the last three days of the season when the Sox play in Cleveland next week.

The Sox lost their fifth game in a row, a 4-1 setback to Angels ace Jered Weaver (19-4), who, after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, did not give up a run until the seventh. The run was the Sox’ eighth during the five-game offensive collapse.

Gavin Floyd (10-11) was brilliant through five innings, striking out eight and walking one in that span, before the Angels broke out in the sixth. After Floyd retired Chris Iannetta to open the inning, he walked Mike Trout to get the inning started. Moments later, Albert Pujols hit a two-run double, and Kendrys Morales followed Pujols with a two-run homer.

“We have to find a way to play better, pitch better, hit better, score runs, play defense,’’ catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “Moral victories [such as Floyd’s five dominant innings], they don’t matter. Bottom line is we have to win games. We didn’t match them pitch for pitch.’’

In keeping with the “I got it, no you take it” theme of the Central race, the Tigers lost 10-4 to the last-place Minnesota Twins in the first game of a day-night doubleheader in Detroit, assuring the Sox of no worse than a tie by the time they got home. The Sox have been in first place since July 24 but have led by no more than 3½ games.

It might be hard to imagine the Sox in first place in a tight race after losing five in a row, but that’s how it is.

“For a long time we’ve known we’ve been playing to the effect it’s going to go down to the last week or three days of the season, so we’re mentally prepared for that,’’ team captain Paul Konerko said.

The Sox’ seven-game homestand begins against the Indians, whom they have not played since May 27 at U.S. Cellular Field. The Sox are 8-4 against the Tribe, have outscored them 85-54 and have won the last five games. The pitching-rich Tampa Bay Rays (83-70) come to town for four games starting Thursday.

With ace Chris Sale starting Monday, the Sox are in good hands. Sale is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA against the Indians (63-90) as a starter, and he’s 8-0 with a 1.20 ERA over his last eight home starts.

The Tigers host the Royals for four games starting Monday before finishing on the road at Minnesota for three games and Kansas City for three. The Tigers are 7-4 against the Royals but were swept by K.C. in three one-run games in their last series Aug. 28-30.

The Sox will be happy to be home, where they are 43-31.

“I don’t think anyone is quite panicking,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘You start panicking, and you get out of your comfort zone. That’s what we don’t want to do. Just be prepared.

“Right now it’s, ‘Let’s get out of here, get home, and a change of scenery can’t do us any worse.’ So it’s get home. Everyone is playing hard and going about it the right way, and there’s nothing wrong except the lack of results and the wins.

‘‘Everything is just not happening. We just have to keep battling and keep fighting.’’

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