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The Chicago White Sox start a big streak against the Cleveland Guardians with a 5-2 loss, falling 3½ games behind the division leaders

Reynaldo López’s slider was low and inside, well off the plate.

It didn’t matter to Steven Kwan, who hit the field in the corner of right field for a three-tie for the Cleveland Guardians on Friday at Progressive Field.

Amed Rosario hit López’s next offering on the left for a scoring single. And just like that, a lead became a deficit for the Chicago White Sox.

Andrés Giménez added a two-run single against Jake Diekman, and the Guardians retired and beat the Sox 5-2 in front of 25,521.

The Guardians scored four runs in the seventh to take the opener of an important three-game series. The No. 3 Sox trail the Division-leading Guardians by 3½ games in American League Central.

“Tough game,” Sox right fielder Andrew Vaughn said. “I got up early, had some opportunities we didn’t take, they took some good batting, made a few runs together and ended up beating us.

“I just have to go back (Saturday).”

It was a painful loss for the Sox in more ways than one. Vaughn was hit by a pitch in the eighth on a ball that deflected off his left shoulder and hit his face.

Vaughn stayed in the game for the start of the eighth before going out late in the inning.

“It’s really scary to get shot in the head, but thank God it hit me in the shoulder first, it grabbed me and it was fine,” Vaughn said. “I felt like I was fine. Didn’t feel any symptoms or anything, just blood (on the lip).

Eloy Jiménez left the game after swinging and missing the first pitch of his eighth inning at bat.

“He twisted his (right) knee,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “It seems like at the moment coach (James) Kruk is optimistic, it’s something he can handle. I don’t know if he’ll play (Saturday). (Kruk is) usually fair, so we we took a break there.

The Sox lost their third in a row, knocking out 17 times.

They had Guardians starter Triston McKenzie on the ropes early, but the right-hander bounced back and stoked a career-high 14 while allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings.

“He’s got some really good stuff,” Vaughn said. “The last few times we’ve raced him he’s been right around that 88.90 mph mark. That’s what his cursor was. He was throwing it well and knocked us off balance. He threw well. I have to give it to him.

The Sox’s two runs came first.

AJ Pollock singled on the first pitch of the game and went third on a double with an out by Jiménez. José Abreu hit a slow roll at third and beat the pitch at first for a field single. Pollock scored on the play. Yoán Moncada, coming off a hot series against the Houston Astros, led Jiménez with a single.

McKenzie avoided more damage, forcing Yasmani Grandal into a late-inning double play.

McKenzie had three crucial strikeouts in the fifth. Josh Harrison started the inning with a double and moved up to third on a wild pitch. McKenzie knocked out Seby Zavala, Pollock and Vaughn as the Sox squandered an opportunity to extend their lead.

“We had a chance to go bigger in the first, then we had a chance in the fifth to add,” La Russa said. “And he was throwing well, so usually it comes back to haunt you and it does.

“He has a lot of deception as you can tell by a lot of fun swings. You see it every time it stands against anyone.

José Ramírez homered in the sixth, cutting the Sox’s lead to 2-1. This is the only race authorized by Lance Lynn. The Sox starter allowed one run on five hits with six strikeouts and a walk in 5⅔ innings.

“I wish I had six,” Lynn said. “But (the sixth) got a bit away from me. I made a few bad throws. Obviously, we left the stadium. But you have to spend six there, so you give your paddock a better chance of matching as you go.

The Guardians arrived at the Sox bullpen in the seventh, which included an intentional march to Oscar Gonzalez on a 1-2 pitch. The Sox trailed 5-2 when Josh Naylor stole third and Andrés Giménez second on a 1-1 pitch from southpaw Diekman. The Sox chose to walk right-hander Oscar Gonzalez, who entered the game with a .306 bat, loading the bases.

“If he leaves left-handed, without facing Gonzalez, he’s hitting .300,” La Russa said. “They stole the base, there is an open base. So that put it.

The move recalled a June 9 game at the guaranteed rate field when La Russa intentionally walked Los Angeles Dodgers right-handed hitter Trea Turner to a 1-2 pitch – after a runner moved to second on a wild pitch – to set up a left-handed – left-handed match. Max Muncy hit a three-run homer off Bennett Souza, giving the Dodgers a five-run lead in an 11-9 victory.

“The most ridiculous thing this season has been the (discussion of) the 1-2 march,” La Russa said. “I mean, that’s the most ridiculous.”

On Friday, right-hander Owen Miller hit for left-hander Nolan Jones, and the Sox brought in right-hander Jimmy Lambert, who got a flyout right to end the inning.

“So it worked, right? Did we get the guy out? Yeah, so it worked,” La Russa said.

When the seventh ended, the Sox were down to three. They haven’t come out of the hole and find themselves facing a bigger deficit in the divisional race.

“You’re not going to win every single one of them,” Lynn said. “If you fight every loss, the season is going to be long. We haven’t done it so far, so we don’t plan to do it now.

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