Sox let golden opportunity slip away
Danks, bullpen struggle with chance to regain lead in Central
CHICAGO -- Early on during Friday's series opener between the White Sox and Indians at U.S. Cellular Field, one of the 36,494 still hopeful fans in attendance held up a sign that read, "I cried myself to sleep last night."
It was a clever and heartfelt expression in relation to Minnesota's three-game sweep of the South Siders at the Metrodome, dropping the White Sox into second place. The feelings of the White Sox fans following Cleveland's 11-8 victory on Friday probably wouldn't be able to be displayed in a public place.
Yes, Friday's loss really was that disappointing for the White Sox (86-73), truly one of their hardest to take this season, regardless of the ramifications in the standings.
"I don't think it was a baseball game. I think it was a pitching parade," said a frustrated White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, after his team lost a fourth straight for the first time since it dropped seven in a row from April 28 to May 5.
"When the manager and pitching coach go out there seven times in five innings, it's not a good indication," added Guillen, trying to force out a smile. "Those guys out there should be a little bit embarrassed with themselves, because I was."
Losing this debacle to Cleveland (80-80) was tempered just a bit by the Royals' 8-1 shellacking of Minnesota (87-73), keeping the Twins' lead atop the American League Central at a half-game. The Twins' magic number dropped to three, with two games remaining, while the White Sox magic number was cut to four, with two still to play against Cleveland this weekend, and a make-up of a rained out contest from Sept. 13 against Detroit scheduled for 1:05 p.m. CT Monday, if necessary.
Any more pitching resembling Friday's work, though, and the White Sox will be home watching the playoffs on television. John Danks (11-9) suffered the loss, giving up seven earned runs on seven hits over four-plus innings. He exited after Shin-Soo Choo singled to center with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth, driving in two runs to give Cleveland a 5-4 victory.
"No other way of putting it, but it was just flat out bad," said Danks, who now stands at 1-4 lifetime against the Indians. "I dropped the ball, let the team down, let the fans down."
"Everything fell apart real quick," added Guillen of Danks. "All of a sudden, he couldn't find the plate and everything went south."
Danks' effort was just the prelude to a truly terrible night on the mound. D.J. Carrasco, one of the team's steadiest relievers for most of the season, replaced Danks and proceeded to walk Jhonny Peralta and then give up Ryan Garko's first career grand slam. Carrasco hit Kelly Shoppach with a pitch and left to a chorus of boos.
Mike MacDougal didn't perform much better, walking three over 1 2/3 innings, while also hitting a batter, notching a balk and tossing a wild pitch to round out the showing. Ehren Wassermann also forced in a run with a walk, as White Sox hurlers gave up six walks and 10 hits.
Octavio Dotel finally stopped the bleeding by retiring all seven Cleveland hitters he faced on 23 pitches, striking out four. The veteran reliever answered Guillen's request when he called him in from the bullpen.
"That's the only thing I begged Dotel to do. I said, 'Please, I'm tried of getting booed. Make sure I don't come here anymore,'" Guillen said. "It got to the point where I didn't even want to go to the mound."
"Yeah, what did we throw -- 300 pitches?" added White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who actually caught 182 pitches in the loss. "It wasn't very good. It ranks right up with the three before it. We didn't lose any ground, but the bad thing is we didn't gain any. We have to find a way to win the next two or three games."
To the White Sox credit, they fought back to cut the deficit to three. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye all went deep, with Dye's 33rd home run ending a drought of 93 at-bats without a long ball. Dye also flew out to right field off of Jensen Lewis (13th save) as the game-tying run to end the eighth.
But back to the night by the pitching staff for the White Sox. It got so tough that Guillen excused himself for a bit and went back into the clubhouse to take out his frustrations on a few inanimate objects. That anger eventually became disappointed amusement, as there really was nothing left for Guillen to feel.
"Hitting guys, walking people, base hits with two outs, wild pitches, balks. Terrible," said Guillen, who apologized to the fans who might have seen him smiling on the bench. "That's the worst first five or six innings I remember in a long time.
"We got 40,000 people out there looking at a stupid baseball game the way we played today. Did we fight back? Yes, we did. I feel proud. We fought all the way through it. But it's getting old."
For the White Sox, it's also getting extremely late. There's no time for efforts like Friday and no more reliance on the Twins coming up short. Plain and simple, the White Sox need to win at least the next three and give the fans something to cheer about, as opposed to causing grief to write about.
"I'm kind of disappointed Minnesota lost," Guillen said. "They should win to push us to be better. I hear everyone say we still have a chance. Not if we continue to play that way."
"Crazier things have happened in this game," Konerko added. "We just have to keep fighting and clawing, and working and grinding."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.