DETROIT -- There are plenty of losses for teams to deal with over the course of a 162-game Major League Baseball season.
Then there are the gut-wrenching setbacks like the 9-8 defeat suffered by the White Sox before 40,635 on Saturday at Comerica Park, which turn euphoria into an instant sense of hopelessness.
And there are blown saves suffered by even the game's greatest closers, ones that leave a pitcher shaking his head as he walks off the mound. Just ask Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman. But there also are ninth-inning disasters like Sergio Santos lived through on Saturday in Detroit, where a two-run lead turned into a walk-off loss through basically two swings of the bat, finishing off Detroit's comeback from a seven-run deficit.
Describe this heartbreak any way you want. The reality is the White Sox (68-68) now sit 7 1/2 games behind the American League Central-leading Tigers (77-62), marking their largest deficit since falling 8 1/2 back on June 1.
With the White Sox having shown no ability of putting together any sustained winning run, producing a season-best five-game winning streak, and the Tigers getting stronger as the season ends, there doesn't seem to be much reason to believe Ozzie Guillen's crew will emerge as a playoff team.
"I mean, not too much," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who finished 2-for-5, raising his average to .318. "But you play and you play hard. That's what you do as a baseball player.
"It's really not that difficult of a thing. You show up and give everything you have and if after 162 we're not there, we're not there. It's not rocket science."
A rocket scientist wasn't needed to figure out what happened to Santos (3-4), who blew his fifth save and had his record-breaking streak of consecutive scoreless road appearances to start a season end at 25. He struck out Wilson Betemit to open the ninth, but gave up a triple to Austin Jackson (4-for-5, two triples) after falling behind in the count. Ryan Raburn, who pinch-hit for Andy Dirks in the seventh, fell behind at 1-2 and fouled off a slider on that third Santos pitch.
The next slider was of the hanging variety, and Raburn drove it some 424 feet to left for the game-tying shot.
"That guy's got great stuff. I'd seen him quite a few times," Raburn said. "I was just able to get the barrel on the bat and the good Lord helped me out there."
"On the one to Raburn, I was trying to get it in the dirt and get him swinging," Santos said. "But it stayed up and in, and he hit it out."
Santos struck out Delmon Young, who homered off Gavin Floyd during a three-run fifth to cut the 8-1 deficit to 8-4, by once again using the slider. His first-pitch slider to Miguel Cabrera landed somewhere in the left-field stands, sending the rain-soaked Tigers faithful into instant celebration on Cabrera's 25th homer of the season.
Moving Santos into the closer's role late in April helped stabilize this tremendous White Sox bullpen. In this situation, Santos once again had to deal with the lonely end of the high-pressure job.
"We had the lead when I was coming into the game. My job is to get three outs and I couldn't do that tonight," Santos said. "Maybe another game tomorrow and we have the lead again and I can go in the ninth.
"You let 24 other guys on your team down, so that's the hard part about it -- those guys. It's been a long day and they busted their tails and played very well. For me to mess up that one inning, it's tough."
Five runs off Detroit starter Brad Penny in the fourth inning turned a close contest into a 6-1 White Sox advantage. Four of those five runs were unearned.
Dayan Viciedo and Alex Rios started the rally with consecutive singles, but stayed at first and second when Alejandro De Aza flew out to left field on a 2-0 pitch. Brent Morel hit a grounder to second baseman Carlos Guillen that looked like a possible double play, but Guillen couldn't get the handle on the high-hopper and then threw late to Cabrera to get Morel.
Gordon Beckham followed with a bases-loaded single to right for a 2-1 White Sox lead. Juan Pierre then hit a sharp grounder to Cabrera, who came home to catcher Alex Avila for the second out, but Avila's return throw hit Pierre, rolled away and allowed Morel to score from second.
Alexei Ramirez topped off the rally with a three-run homer to left on an 0-2 pitch from Penny. De Aza and Morel added back-to-back two-out homers off Penny in the fifth, with De Aza's coming on an 0-2 offering and Morel going deep on the very next pitch, bringing the insurmountable-looking lead to 8-1 in this monumentally important contest.
Detroit then proceeded to carve into that deficit, like the lightning cutting through the sky out beyond Comerica Park. It all came to an end with Cabrera's titanic clout.
For the night and quite possibly for the season for the third-place White Sox.
"Every loss hurts when you play this game or when you compete," Ozzie Guillen said. "But this one is very painful."
"Like I said, it doesn't matter how it shook out," Konerko said. "It doesn't matter if it was a see-saw battle or anyway it happened. The end result was a loss, and that's that. You've got to get 27 outs. Score more runs than the other team by the time the last out is made. End of story."