Homers not enough for Garcia, Sox
Konerko, Quentin go deep in tough loss to Royals
CHICAGO -- Scoreboard watching has not yet become a necessary way of life for the 2009 White Sox. And that fact played out as a good thing on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
While the first-place Tigers were rallying for four in the eighth inning to upend the Mariners at Comerica Park, the White Sox watched an early three-run lead evaporate behind Freddy Garcia and turn into a 5-4 setback to the last-place Royals. What looked like a chance to move within one game of the American League Central lead suddenly turned into a three-game deficit for Chicago (61-59), with Kansas City ace Zack Greinke on the mound for Wednesday's series finale.
Even with Tuesday's unwanted turn of events, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen stressed that Detroit is not the team currently holding his focus.
"I only have to worry about the White Sox. It [doesn't] matter what Detroit does," said Guillen, after watching his team slip to 7-7 against the Royals this season. "We have to win as many as we can.
"If anybody in our clubhouse [worries] about Detroit, well, they have enough to worry about with us. We have our own problems, and we need to resolve our own before we look at someone else."
Tuesday's problem really didn't center on Garcia (0-1), making his first big league start since Sept. 29, 2008, when he pitched for the Tigers against the White Sox. It was Garcia's first start for the White Sox since Sept. 29, 2006, at Minnesota.
The big right-hander started strong with two scoreless innings, but ended up not being able to last through five. He yielded five earned runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking one.
Home runs from Paul Konerko, his 22nd, and Carlos Quentin, his 12th, gave Garcia a 4-1 advantage to work with in the third. But John Buck's two-run home run cut the lead to one in the fourth, and Billy Butler's third double off Garcia tied the game in the fifth. Both Guillen and Garcia pointed to the pitcher's inability to field Willie Bloomquist's hard-hit comeback with one out and nobody on in the deciding fifth as a turning point.
"Butler [beat] me, and I should have caught that ground ball," said Garcia, who threw 53 of his 91 pitches for strikes, slipping to 8-12 lifetime against the Royals. "After that, I should have been more confident with my fastball."
"He left a couple of pitches up in the zone, but besides that I like what I see," said Guillen of Garcia. "Nobody is happy when you lose, but everyone should be satisfied with how Freddy went out and did his job."
Chicago's offense, or lack thereof in the clutch, doesn't get as high of an approval rating as Garcia. The White Sox put 14 runners on base over five innings against Royals starter Gil Meche (6-9), but they stranded 10, finishing 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
In the fifth, the White Sox had runners on first and third with nobody out on Quentin's walk and Alex Rios' hit-and-run single. But Quentin was nailed at the plate by right fielder Bloomquist on Alexei Ramirez's fly ball, helping Meche to escape.
"No. I wasn't surprised. I was kind of expecting him to go," said Bloomquist of the White Sox testing his arm. "I'm not really known as having an outfield cannon, I guess, so to speak. I haven't really gotten a lot of opportunities to throw guys out.
"In that situation, it's just kind of homework I guess beforehand that they do. They thought they had a chance to score, and I probably would have sent the guy, too. Fortunately for us, I made a decent throw and I got the guy out."
Guillen deferred to third-base coach Jeff Cox in regard to sending Quentin, who has battled plantar fasciitis in his left foot and a sore right knee for much of the season. But Guillen quickly added support for Cox, saying his position is not an easy one to handle.
That play at the plate pretty much marked the White Sox's last scoring opportunity. Robinson Tejeda threw three hitless innings of relief, fanning five, while Joakim Soria worked a perfect ninth for his 20th save.
Konerko had a chance to tie the game with one out in the ninth, launching a drive toward the right-field stands. But Bloomquist made the catch about two or three steps short of the wall.
"It came off his bat, I said, 'OK, unless this thing is five rows deep, I'm going to climb the fence and try and get this thing,'" Bloomquist said. "Of course, it kind of died a little bit and I was able to track it down. Any time [Konerko] gets up there, you feel a little bit uncomfortable. On the other hand, we've got Soria on the mound, so I feel pretty confident when he's in the game."
When the White Sox look back over the season, they hope moments like the one described by Bloomquist or tough losses such as Tuesday's defeat don't prove to be the team's undoing. It's a talented unit on the South Side of Chicago, but also a group seemingly unable to sustain any sort of momentum.
"Being three back, four in the loss column, we just have to keep grinding," Konerko said. "With the amount of time we have left, that's something you can overcome. But if you think about what could have been today, yesterday or a week ago, that four is going to turn into eight."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.