Bullpen lets down White Sox
Wassermann, Ramirez struggle in seventh inning vs. Yankees
NEW YORK -- In the midst of talking about a 4-2 defeat suffered by his White Sox before 53,236 at Yankee Stadium on Monday night, Ozzie Guillen might have come up with another catch phrase worthy of a T-shirt or at least a few mentions across the country.
The White Sox manager was reminded that despite his squad's fifth loss in its past nine games and sixth setback in eight road games, the magic number to win the American League Central dropped to 12 via Minnesota's 3-1 loss in Cleveland.
What Minnesota (82-68) does, though, doesn't concern Guillen.
"We just have to win," Guillen said. "We don't have to hope for someone to beat Minnesota."
Then, with a comical glint in his eye, Guillen launched a commentary in which best-selling posters or bumper stickers are made.
"Those little piranhas are out of teeth now," said a sarcastic Guillen, moving forward in his chair and smiling. "I got a feeling they have no more teeth left. I know.
"They have been grinding and fighting all year long, so they should have little teeth now. It's time for us to pull them out and win it."
In order for Guillen's piranha dentistry plan to be activated, the White Sox bullpen will have to produce a little more consistently. Sunday's nightcap of a doubleheader sweep against Detroit featured seven runs allowed by the relief crew in the seventh and eighth innings alone.
Monday's problems weren't as severe, with Ehren Wassermann and Horacio Ramirez unable to keep the score deadlocked at 2 in the seventh inning. Wassermann replaced Mark Buehrle -- whose only major mistake over six frames resulted in Xavier Nady's two-run home run in the second -- and proceeded to walk Nady.
Wassermann jumped ahead with two quick strikes against Nady, making matters worse.
"When I got ahead 0-2, I tried to pick too much on the next few," said Wassermann, who slipped to 1-2 by suffering the loss to the Yankees. "I should have taken a shot or two and gone right back after him."
"You give up a home run, and that's part of the game," Guillen added. "You walk people, and you are going to get yourself in trouble."
Cody Ransom's sacrifice moved Nady into scoring position and brought in the left-handed Ramirez to turn around switch-hitting pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit. The move didn't work, as Betemit laced a game-winning ground-rule double to left. Johnny Damon singled home Betemit off Ramirez, giving the Yankees (80-70) a two-run cushion.
Those two runs seem more like 10 with the unbelievable success rate New York closer Mariano Rivera has pitched at this season. Rivera cruised through Jim Thome, Alexei Ramirez and A.J. Pierzynski in the ninth, earning his 36th save and the 479th of his career, moving the right-hander in front of Lee Smith for second place on the all-time list.
"Mo comes into the game, and you know what's going to happen," said Guillen of Rivera, who dropped his ERA to 1.52.
For the White Sox to succeed, they don't need their collective relief unit to be as untouchable as the Yankees' future Hall of Famer. First, they would like to get their late-inning alignment of Octavio Dotel/Matt Thornton in the seventh, Scott Linebrink in the eighth and Bobby Jenks to close back on track.
But Guillen also needs support from the smaller pieces, such as Wassermann and Ramirez, to survive the Twins' challenge. Otherwise, Guillen might get a bit older before his time.
"If the bullpen doesn't get better, there will be a lot of white hair coming out of my head," Guillen said. "It's funny because we should add more people to the bullpen and it's shrinking.
"I don't want to lose confidence in those guys. But if you don't do your job, I have to do my job. I have confidence in them. They have to show me how much confidence they have in themselves."
Dewayne Wise's two-run home run in the fourth marked the lone runs produced against Yankees starter Alfredo Aceves. Wise has now homered in two straight games for the second time in his career.
Otherwise, the offense for the White Sox (83-66) was fairly quiet against Aceves and a trio of relievers including Joba Chamberlain and Phil Coke (1-0), who picked up his first career victory. Buehrle kept Chicago in the game, striking out six and not issuing a walk, but was pulled after 101 pitches to keep his count manageable in case he comes back on short rest.
As for losing confidence in the bullpen, Buehrle just chalked up these recent struggles as a rough stretch that could befell any strong group. The bottom line is the White Sox remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the Twins with 13 games to play, and possibly with the Piranhas losing a little bit of their bite.
"Hopefully when we get to Minnesota we are still in the pennant race," said Guillen, stating what looks to be the obvious for his team, barring a collapse this week in New York and Kansas City.
"From here on out, we won't win every game," Buehrle added. "Obviously, we have to take care of our business, but it's the time of year where you can't help but look at the scoreboard and hope [Minnesota] is losing. When we lose, it's kind of nice for them to lose."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.