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White Sox’ lead shrinks to half-game after loss to Angels

RobVenturwas given boot fourth inning for arguing balk call Jose Quintana. | Christine Cotter~AP

Robin Ventura was given the boot in the fourth inning for arguing a balk call on Jose Quintana. | Christine Cotter~AP

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Updated: October 24, 2012 6:55AM

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Stretch-run moustaches slowly but surely are disappearing around the White Sox’ clubhouse.

So is their lead over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. Not to mention manager Robin Ventura’s cool.

The Los Angeles Angels scored four in the first inning against rookie left-hander Jose Quintana and held on for a 4-2 victory, handing the Sox their fourth loss in a row. Coupled with the Tigers’ 8-0 win against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon, the Sox’ lead stands at a half-game.

The Tigers can knock the Sox out of first place for the first time since July 24 when they play a day-night doubleheader Sunday while the Sox try to avoid a sweep.

“You’ve just gotta go out and play,’’ third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. “If you put pressure upon yourself, the game is going to get a lot worse. You have got to go out, have fun and try to win ballgames. A lot of guys are working their butt off to do that, and we’re just coming up short right now.’’

The Sox were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, getting their runs against Dan Haren (12-11) on Paul Konerko’s 24th home run in the second inning and pinch hitter Dewayne Wise’s RBI ground out in the seventh. Wise’s grounder to the right side also moved A.J. Pierzynski (double) to third with one out, but Alexei Ramirez tapped out to third and Pierzynski was unable to score.

The Sox are an atrocious 3-for-37 with runners in scoring position in the last five games.

“Same as it’s been all the time — we just have to find a way to win some games,’’ Pierzynski said. “Can’t play any different, change anything. Just find a way. That’s it.’’

Ventura was thrown out of the game by first-base umpire Ed Hickox for arguing a balk called on Quintana in the fourth. Quintana shook off the commotion to work out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam and keep the Sox in the game.

But Quintana was his worst enemy in the first, when he walked leadoff man Mike Trout and then fumbled Erick Aybar’s sacrifice bunt for an error. Albert Pujols’ double, Torii Hunter’s RBI single and Mark Trumbo’s two-run single were sprinkled around two more walks, and it was 4-0.

Ventura, who might have been trying to light a fire under a team that has looked flat because it’s not hitting, said not to expect lineup changes. Asked if his team was feeling the heat from the Tigers, he said, “You would rather be doing this than trying to ruin somebody’s postseason chance. This is baseball. Guys should be having fun doing it. There is stress and stuff like that, and you want to win games. But you would rather be doing this.’’

Youkilis, who was in a 1-for-19 slump before getting a single and walk Saturday, promoted the team’s moustache trend a couple weeks ago. After Konerko and Adam Dunn — who struck out three times and hit into a double play Saturday — shaved theirs, Youkilis did the same after Friday’s loss.

“With this team, we know we’re one good solid half-inning away from tearing open the game,’’ Youkilis said. “We just have to be able to do that at some point. Games are winding down, and you have to try and win as many as possible.’’

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