White Sox unable to sweep Devil Rays
Bullpen surrenders six runs over the final two innings
CHICAGO -- As his teammates dressed to go to Minnesota, Andrew Sisco packed for Charlotte. Near the clubhouse door, departing White Sox got a look at an unsigned, and particularly vulgar, letter to Mike MacDougal telling him to go back to Scotland, or worse, Kansas City.
Welcome to the [not-so] wonderful world of the White Sox bullpen.
A struggling Sisco was sent down to Triple-A after the White Sox 11-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Sunday afternoon. It was the first of perhaps several moves in what could be a re-shuffling of a ragged bullpen that gave up six runs in the final two innings Sunday, turning a close game into a blowout. While Sisco's three-run ninth wasn't to blame for the defeat, it sure capped it off.
"If you want to have a winning team, your bullpen has got to do a better job," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of a relief corps that had posted an 8.33 ERA over its last 15 games even before Sunday's collapse. "We're not going to win with a bullpen like that."
The White Sox also lost Pablo Ozuna for the next "three to four months," possibly, after the speedy utility man fractured his right fibula and tore ligaments in his ankle on a leadoff double in the first inning. The team will announce roster moves to replace Sisco and Ozuna before Monday's game with the Twins. Guillen said the team might call up Triple-A infielder Andy Gonzalez, who can also play a little outfield, to take Ozuna's spot.
"No matter who we bring [up], no one can replace Pablo, that's for sure," Guillen said. "He's so valuable to us."
Sisco and his 8.36 ERA shouldn't be as tough to replace. The former Rule 5 draft pick posted a 15.00 ERA in May, giving up 10 runs in six innings, including three runs on Sunday. His old Kansas City Royals teammate, MacDougal, though, earned the lion's share of boos from the sellout crowd, most of which had already given up by the ninth. MacDougal gave up two runs on two hits and two walks while he was unable to get out of the eighth. He's given up nine earned runs on 15 hits in his last 5 1/3 innings.
"[With] MacDougal, we've got to talk to him about some stuff," Guillen said. "Hopefully he doesn't lose confidence. It's a shame to see those guys struggle, when they throw the ball so well and they have great arms. When you're not attacking the strike zone and you're not throwing strikes, I don't care how good you are, you're going to get beat."
MacDougal, whose ERA has ballooned to 6.88, said he's just going through a rough patch.
"It's not mental," he said. "I'm still confident every time I go out there. The last few outings have been a little rough. I'll just keep working and turn things around."
Lost in the bullpen morass was Javier Vazquez (2-3), who actually took the loss. Vazquez left a 4-4 game with one out in the seventh after giving up an infield hit to B.J. Upton. With Carl Crawford coming to the plate, Guillen summoned Matt Thornton, who promptly gave up an RBI triple to Crawford, a shot that just missed being a two-run homer. Vazquez, who gave up a two-run shot to Carlos Pena to tie the game in the sixth, was charged with five earned runs on eight hits. He also gave up a homer to Ty Wigginton in the second.
Thornton hit Pena to start the eighth and made way for MacDougal, who gave up a ground-rule double to Wigginton and a two-run single to Delmon Young. After getting a double play, MacDougal walked two hitters and was pulled for Nick Masset. He gave up an RBI single to Upton. Sisco walked one and gave up three hits in the ninth to push the score to 11-4.
"We're going to stick by them like they stuck by us," Paul Konerko said. "There were a lot of games in April we don't come close to winning without the bullpen."
The White Sox had a 4-2 lead, scoring four in the third off Scott Kazmir (3-2) to take the lead. Rob Mackowiak, in for Ozuna, walked with one out and Tadahito Iguchi singled. After a Jim Thome sacrifice, Jermaine Dye hit an RBI single, Konerko had an RBI double and Joe Crede a two-run single.
But that was all the offense could deliver against Kazmir, who worked seven innings. The White Sox, who added a run in the ninth, picked up 11 hits but only went 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position. They left nine men on base, two apiece in the first, sixth and ninth. Can't blame the bullpen for that.
"Early in the game we should've scored a lot of runs and we didn't," Guillen said. "I think that's one reason the game ended up like that."
Jon Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.