Richard solid, but White Sox fall
Chicago maintains 2 1/2-game lead on second-place Minnesota
NEW YORK -- A number of White Sox players gathered in front of a big-screen television placed front and center in the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium following New York's 5-1 victory on Wednesday night.
This group certainly wasn't checking out the latest episode of Lost or one of the many shows from the CSI franchise.
Instead, they were watching the seventh inning of the Indians-Twins game, letting out an audible cheer when Jhonny Peralta doubled home the go-ahead run for the Indians. It was loud enough for manager Ozzie Guillen to come out from his office.
After one of the coaches explained to Guillen what had happened, he smiled and played down the Cleveland rally.
"Who [cares]?" Guillen said. "We already lost tonight."
Guillen's team cut its magic number to 9 to win the American League Central when the Indians completed the three-game home sweep of the Twins. But they had a chance to push that first-place advantage to 3 1/2 with a mere 11 games remaining, if not for a late rally by the Yankees.
Clayton Richard (2-5) suffered the loss, but he certainly was far from the primary cause for this particular setback. Picked out of a pool of three or four possibilities to fill the fifth starter's spot, Richard allowed two runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings, while striking out five.
Alex Rodriguez was a Richard strikeout victim twice, and Bobby Abreu and Derek Jeter each fanned once. It was Xavier Nady and White Sox reliever Mike MacDougal who did in Richard on this night.
With Rodriguez on second and two outs in the seventh and the White Sox nursing a 1-0 lead, Guillen went to the mound to talk with Richard about facing Nady. The basic message to the rookie southpaw was not to let the right-handed-hitting Nady beat him with the left-handed-hitting Robinson Cano on deck.
The count quickly played to Nady's favor at 2-0, but it was a 2-1 changeup that Nady lined to center field to score the tying run. It wasn't perfectly located, but it certainly was not a bad pitch -- aside from the result.
"He did a good job of staying on it and hitting it up the middle," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
"Early in the game, we got him out with changeups, but I got behind him, and that was a big thing," Richard added. "If we got ahead, it might have been a different outcome. He had a good swing on a good pitch, so just tip your cap to him."
Cano followed with his third hit off Richard, a double to right putting runners on second and third for the Yankees (81-71), and bringing in MacDougal to face Ivan Rodriguez. MacDougal uncorked a wild pitch on a 1-2 offering, scoring Nady with the go-ahead run.
MacDougal was unable to keep the game even, but Scott Linebrink couldn't keep the game close. The right-hander allowed home runs to Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez in the eighth, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 5-1 defeat.
Of course, the offense didn't exactly put up much support for Richard or the relievers. Jermaine Dye's groundout in the third scored Orlando Cabrera with the White Sox lone run, but they had plenty of chances to add on.
Cabrera opened the game with a double and Ken Griffey Jr. did the same to start the seventh. Neither one scored, with Alexei Ramirez unable to advance Griffey on a sacrifice-bunt attempt fielded by Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate.
"Offensively, we didn't have much going," Guillen said. "To win, we are going to have score more than one run."
"There were some great at-bats early in the game, and we got into the bullpen early, which you always want to do," Pierzynski added. "We never seemed able to get the big hit."
New York starter Phil Hughes lasted just four innings, but Phil Coke, Brian Bruney (3-0), Joba Chamberlain and Edwar Ramirez limited the White Sox (84-67) to two hits over the next five innings. That sort of effort left the South Siders frustrated, while also hoping and watching for a Minnesota loss.
In the end, though, the White Sox have to take care of their own business to advance to the postseason.
"The bottom line is we are ahead," Pierzynski said. "If we win, it doesn't matter what they do."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.