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White Sox drop sixth in a row as Yankees complete 4-game sweep

Reliever Brian Bruney sits bench after giving up three-run homer Russell Martin. | Brian Kersey~Getty Images

Reliever Brian Bruney sits on the bench after giving up a three-run homer to Russell Martin. | Brian Kersey~Getty Images

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:22AM

The beat goes on.

The drum is banging out a slow death march to a place no baseball team wants to be: barely good enough to have a chance of getting back in contention, and plenty bad enough to know the reality of who they are.

“It is what it is,’’ Paul Konerko said in a quiet clubhouse Thursday night. “We’re getting [to] Minneapolis late and back on the field [tonight]. If we don’t regroup and get after it [tonight], it’s going to be one more loss.’’

The Yankees’ 7-2 victory before 28,088 at U.S. Cellular Field completed a four-game sweep and a dreadful 3-7 homestand that started with two wins in three games against the American League Central-leading Tigers.

“It seems like things are not clicking for us,’’ understated Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, who has been handed the tough task of stopping a six-game losing streak when the Sox open a three-game series at Minnesota tonight. “We’re pitching good and we’re not hitting, then [Wednesday] night, we crush the ball and get seven runs and didn’t come close to winning.’’

Philip Humber (8-8, 3.56 ERA) was charged with four runs in 61/3 innings in his attempt to stop a personal three-game losing streak. He received the usual support from the Sox’ free-swinging, pitter-patter offense, pitching with no margin for error and leaving in the seventh trailing 3-1.

What’s painfully obvious to Sox fans is that this team (52-58) has a postseason-worthy pitching staff with five solid starters and a top-notch bullpen. And it’s getting them nowhere.

“I mean, we just got killed four games,’’ Konerko said.

Timing is everything, and the Sox — swept in a four-game series for the first time in four years — happened to catch the Yankees (68-42) at a bad time. New York has won seven straight and 11 of 14.

“Unfortunately, we’re not playing good, and that ballclub we’re playing, they’ve been playing good for a little while,’’ manager Ozzie Guillen said.

Yankees starter Ivan Nova (10-4) struck out a career-high 10 — getting Alexei Ramirez, Carlos Quentin, Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza twice — before exiting in the eighth after the Sox got their sixth hit against him. All were singles — two each by Konerko and Brent Morel, and a pair of infield hits.

Konerko, playing for the first time after missing three games with a bruised calf, said he felt “80-90 percent.”

Humber, who hasn’t won at U.S. Cellular Field since July 12 against Oakland, said he felt good and “felt like I was making good pitches.’’

“You hate to lose a series, much less get swept,’’ Humber said. “They played the game better than we did.’’

Robinson Cano poked a fastball on the outside corner from Humber over the left-field wall to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

“Just to flick it out of the park like that is impressive,’’ Humber said.

To Humber, so was the Yankees’ sixth. Brett Gardner led off with a double and was bunted to third by Derek Jeter. Curtis Granderson hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Adam Dunn, who stepped on the bag as he threw home, but not in time as Gardner beat catcher A.J. Pierzynski’s tag.

The Sox, who did not draw a walk in the four-game series, were getting schooled by baseball’s upper class.

‘‘They’re playing the kind of baseball you need to win,’’ Humber said. “Leadoff double, and two pitches later, he’s in. That’s how you win baseball games — little things like that. Hopefully, we’re going to start doing that.’’

The Sox gave it a go in their half of the sixth. Pierre pushed a bunt over the head of creeping-in third baseman Eric Chavez for a one-out single. But Pierre was thrown out stealing by Yankees catcher Russell Martin on a strikeout of Alexei Ramirez.

End of inning. Class dismissed.

Martin’s three-run homer against Brian Bruney in the ninth, a 439-foot blast to left-center, made it 7-1. Fans headed home after that one.

Those who did missed Dunn’s 11th homer in the ninth, a 421-foot shot “that didn’t mean anything,’’ Dunn said.

Perhaps more meaningful was that Dunn struck out only three times in 17 at-bats against the Yankees.

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