CHICAGO -- The Indians might want to check the standings and remind themselves that they are still in first place. After the bruising Cleveland took this weekend in Chicago, that important fact might be easy to forget.
On Sunday afternoon, the Indians took it on the chin in a 12-6 loss at the hands of the White Sox, who broke out the brooms in overwhelming fashion over the course of the last three games. The latest pitcher to fall victim to the offensive revival taking place on the South Side was Ubaldo Jimenez.
Cleveland could not get to its departing flight fast enough.
"It was a tough series," Indians designated hitter Johnny Damon said. "We also have to remember that we're in first place."
For the third straight game -- only the second time this season the Tribe has lost three in a row -- the White Sox pounded out at least nine runs against the Indians. Chicago has plated at least nine in four straight games, marking the first time the team has accomplished that feat since June of 1938.
Until this weekend's clash, the Indians had not given up at least 35 runs in a three-game series since allowing 35 from June 4-6, 2002, in a road set against the Twins. Over the last three games, the American League Central-leading Indians (26-21) allowed 35 runs on 42 hits, including 17 that went for extra bases.
"They have a really good lineup," said Jimenez, whose season ERA now sits at 5.79. "And the thing is, in this series, they were hitting everything. I made a lot of good pitches and they were able to get either a bloop out of it, finding the hole every single time. And then when they hit it good, they hit home runs."
One sweep followed another, though Cleveland's brooming of Detroit earlier in the week seems a distant memory in light of the disaster in Chicago. That said, Indians manager Manny Acta reminded that it remains too early in the schedule to make too much of either series.
"That's why you can't be doing backflips in May," Acta said. "It's way too early. Yeah, so what? We swept the Tigers three days ago and now [the White Sox] swept us. That's how the game goes. You just have to stay positive and come out every single day and try to win every game, regardless of where you're at."
Jimenez (5-4) took the loss in the series finale, which trimmed the Indians' lead in the division down to just half a game over the surging White Sox (26-22). The right-hander was charged with seven runs on seven hits in four-plus innings, during which he piled up four walks and one hit batsman in a 99-pitch effort.
The Indians -- already short Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana due to injuries -- received a scare in the fourth inning. Catcher Lou Marson, who is filling in for Santana (out with a mild concussion), was hit in the face by a pitch from Chicago starter Gavin Floyd. Marson exited the game in the fifth and needed three stitches.
"He's OK," Acta said. "He's a tough guy. He's probably one of the toughest guys I've been around."
The White Sox -- winners in nine of their last 10 games -- struck for three runs in each of the first and fourth innings, mixing in another run off Jimenez in the third. Cleveland's main tormentor -- as has often been the case over the years -- was Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko, who launched a three-run home run off Jimenez to put the Tribe behind, 7-4, in the fourth.
"It was a tough at-bat," Jimenez said. "He's a tough guy. He fought. I threw a lot of good pitches and he kept fouling it off and fouling it off until he got a good one. We tried to throw the slider once again and it stayed a little bit over the plate."
The blast marked Konerko's 11th of the season overall and his 44th career shot against Cleveland. That moved Konerko into a tie with Al Kaline for 10th on the all-time career home run list against the Indians. There is not a slouch to be found on that list, which is paced by Babe Ruth (82), Ted Williams (79) and Lou Gehrig (73).
Konerko is the active leader in home runs, RBIs, runs, hits and doubles against the Tribe.
"I don't think I'm the only one who has an issue with Paul Konerko," Acta said. "Paul Konerko is just a professional hitter and he has been for years. I mean, there's only so much you can do. He's a good one."
In the series, Konerko hit .583 (7-for-12) with a home run, three doubles, five runs scored and six RBIs.
Needless to say, Cleveland has seen enough of the slugging first baseman.
"Yeah," Damon said. "Everything he touches is finding pasture or finding the bleachers."
Damon contributed a three-run home run off Floyd in the second inning to pull the game into a 3-3 deadlock, but the tie did not last long. Michael Brantley later added a pair of RBIs and Jose Lopez delivered a run-scoring double in the ninth inning, but the damage had more than been done by the White Sox.
For the time being, though, the Indians remain in first place.
"You catch teams at the right and wrong time," Damon said. "The White Sox are just swinging the bats very well. They hit .500 or so with runners in scoring position this series. They did well, but hopefully we can start another streak tomorrow."