CHICAGO -- Many people might forget that the 2011 White Sox started the season with seven wins in 11 games and looked "all-in" for a strong pursuit of the American League Central title.
Then the team lost a three-run, ninth-inning lead in a game against Oakland and a run of 17 losses in 21 games took root. During that stretch, the White Sox lost three out of four games at home against the Orioles to close out April at eight games under .500.
Fast forward to April, '12, and the overlooked White Sox entered this four-game home set against the Orioles with big momentum gained by taking a weekend series from AL Central-favorite Detroit. Then, the White Sox lost a two-run lead in the ninth on Monday, leading to a six-run 10th for the Orioles, and dropped a 3-2 decision at a frosty U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night.
Could it be a case of déjà vu all over again for the White Sox? Starting and losing pitcher John Danks doesn't see it that way.
"The feeling around here right now is this is nothing like last year. We are going to be just fine," said Danks, who gave up three runs over seven innings in slipping to 1-2. "We just have to continue to throw the ball well and have good timely hitting.
"These last couple of games, we felt like we probably could have and should have won. But this group of guys right here is tough enough and good enough to bounce back. Go get them tomorrow."
Danks struck out five and walked two while throwing 102 pitches, but the southpaw would like to have two pitches back to Noland Reimold and J.J. Hardy from this particular night's effort. The two teams entered the sixth in a scoreless tie, with the Orioles having only a second-inning Matt Wieters single to show for their troubles. The White Sox had knocked out three singles off of Wei-Yin Chen (1-0), stranding two runners in the fourth when Alexei Ramirez bounced back to the pitcher.
Robert Andino started the sixth-inning rally with a single to center and Reimold followed by launching an 0-1 fastball into the left-center field stands for the fourth straight game during which Reimold has gone deep. Three pitches later, Hardy went back-to-back to almost the exact same spot.
Baltimore had four long balls in the last three innings to emerge with Monday's 10-inning win. Homers did in the White Sox again during Game 2.
"He battled. He pitched well. He just had two pitches he wants back," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Danks. "He gives you everything he's got and it's just one of those games."
"Anytime during the game, anybody one through nine has the ability to hit the ball over the fence," Reimold said. "We've been doing that a lot and it's been helping us out a lot obviously."
"I made two mistakes that got hit pretty hard," Danks added.
A.J. Pierzynski, who is hitting .478 with 11 RBIs during his six-game hitting streak, doubled home two runs in the sixth off of Chen to cut the lead to one. But the White Sox wasted a first-and-third, one-out situation when Ramirez popped out to first baseman Chris Davis and Alex Rios left too early from first and was caught stealing at second.
One more serious victory pass came from the White Sox in the ninth inning against closer Jim Johnson. Rios' five-pitch walk, Ramirez's sacrifice bunt and Hardy's error on Dayan Viciedo's grounder put runners at first and third with one out.
Pinch-hitter Kosuke Fukudome lined out to third baseman Wilson Betemit for the second out, but the inning stayed alive via a walk to Alejandro De Aza after pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge swiped second. That left the bases loaded for Brent Morel, whose slow roller to third was fielded by Betemit and a true throw to first finished off the White Sox third straight loss.
"He's not easy any time, but certainly on nights like tonight, he's tougher," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko of facing Johnson. "The guys in the ninth, we've been battling. You can see we grinded it out right to the end there."
"It's frustrating but we were just battling all the way," Ventura said. "You are going to lose some like that, but you know, when you battle like that, at-bat after at-bat, guys doing that, you are going to win a lot more than you are going to lose."
Jake Peavy tries to get the White Sox back on track Wednesday night, as the South Siders try to avoid losing a fourth or even fifth straight before going to the West Coast. Suddenly, this April has an eerily similar feeling to last year's start, even just 10 games in, but then again, it's not the same at all according to Danks.
"This team doesn't die," Danks said. "We got one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball in the ninth inning and had a chance to win it.
"You know, it's a tough loss, but it was a well-played baseball game. If we play like this the rest of the year, it should make for a fun summer."