Vazquez, White Sox tripped up by Tribe
Starter struggles through five; offense unable to get key hits
CLEVELAND -- Two games into the 2008 season, and the White Sox sit in the same exact place they found themselves in 2007 -- with two losses to the Indians.
According to comments made by the White Sox following Wednesday's 7-2 setback to Cleveland at a frosty Progressive Field, the similarities end with the winless record. There's no reason to start worrying about a repeat of last year's debacle at this early stage.
"If they do, they are a bunch of losers," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, when asked of concerns over a slow start evoking memories of the previous 72-90 campaign. "If they think that way, they better pack their stuff and leave. We have 160 games to go, and we didn't come here to win 162."
"It's just two games," added White Sox starter Javier Vazquez, who suffered the loss in the second game of the new season. "You know what, the guy out there pitching for them, I watched his pitches, and he had his stuff. Give him credit, because he threw a great game."
"The guy" pitching for Cleveland was Fausto Carmona, one of the great stories of baseball during his 19-win performance in 2007. Carmona picked up right where he left off in his season debut, using his 95-mph sinker to record 16 outs via ground balls over seven innings.
Only one ball left the infield in the first four innings for the White Sox, and when factoring in Carmona's four strikeouts, Jim Thome's sixth-inning fly ball to right fielder Franklin Gutierrez was Carmona's lone outfield out of the game. This strong effort shouldn't hide the fact that the White Sox had scoring chances.
In five of Carmona's seven innings, the White Sox put at least one runner on base. They had runners on first and third with one out in the second, but Alexei Ramirez grounded into a double play -- one of three turned behind Carmona.
"That's what he does, what a pitcher throwing 95 [mph] with sink can do," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who had three hits and scored two runs, including his first home run leading off the ninth. Pierzynski's drive to right came off of Jorge Julio, giving the White Sox catcher four home runs in eight at-bats against the Cleveland right-hander.
"You try to make [Carmona] elevate and make him get it up," Pierzynski added. "But it's so hard because he keeps everything down in the zone. We hit some balls hard that went right at guys."
Vazquez, meanwhile, struck out six and gave up just four hits, but he was limited to five innings by 103 pitches. The right-hander walked four, including consecutive free passes issued to Ryan Garko and Gutierrez with two outs in the fifth, forcing home a run. Vazquez walked ninth-place hitter Kelly Shoppach with two on and two out in the second, loading the bases and setting up Grady Sizemore for a two-run single on the next pitch.
Sizemore finished with three hits and three RBIs, reaching base four times and scoring twice. Vazquez wouldn't blame the cold for his brief bout of wildness on Wednesday, even with a game-time temperature of 34 degrees.
"This is the 11th April I've pitched in, so I should have a good idea how to deal with cold weather," said Vazquez with a smile. "I was up in the zone a lot, and those walks in that fifth inning really killed me there."
"He threw the ball pretty well, not great," added Pierzynski of Vazquez. "He just was underneath the ball late, especially in the fifth, when he got behind guys."
A potential two-out rally in the seventh against Carmona appeared to be snuffed out by a questionable call from first-base umpire Bruce Dreckman, marking the second straight game in which the White Sox seemed to come up on the short end of decisions made by the men in black. With Pierzynski on second, Joe Crede hit a ground ball deep in the hole to shortstop Jhonny Peralta and looked to at least tie the throw at first. Dreckman ruled Crede out.
Two singles and a walk loaded the bases in the eighth with two out for the White Sox off of Masa Kobayashi and Rafael Perez. But Jermaine Dye struck out swinging on a full-count offering on what could have been ball four.
Those close calls led to a second straight loss for the White Sox and a second straight 0-2 start to the year for the team, with John Danks bearing the pressure of avoiding a sweep on Thursday afternoon. This loss did not lead to any sort of consternation on the part of a team fixated on American League Central contention.
"I like the enthusiasm at the ballpark and in the dugout," Guillen said. "We didn't give up tonight. We fought to the end today, and that's all you can do. I like what I see."
"Monday's loss, that was a tough one," White Sox left fielder Nick Swisher added. "Tonight was not our night. Tonight, they did what they had to do. So, you sweep it under the rug and get ready for tomorrow."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.