Garcia's sharp outing falls by wayside
Righty strong over eight frames but Sox fall to Royals
CHICAGO -- Freddy Garcia turned in his sixth straight quality start for the White Sox on Sunday, doing so vs. a Kansas City team against which he had an 0-6 record and 8.51 ERA in his past seven appearances.
Garcia gave the White Sox a chance for victory by allowing just two runs on five hits over eight innings, striking out three, walking one and throwing 94 pitches. He retired the final nine hitters he faced and strengthened his case for the White Sox fifth starter's job in 2010.
But the White Sox offense could not muster enough support to make Garcia (2-3) a winner. In fact, the big right-hander suffered the loss in Kansas City's 2-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field. With the setback in Sunday's pitchers' duel, the White Sox (73-77) lost the weekend series to Kansas City (61-88), dropped to 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers in the American League Central and watched their elimination number reduced to seven.
After pounding out 13 runs on 14 hits in Saturday's 13-3 victory, the White Sox managed just six hits off of Robinson Tejeda (4-1), Roman Colon and Joakim Soria (26th save) in the series finale. It's this sort of up-and-down effort with the bat that has contributed to the White Sox failing to win back-to-back games since taking four straight from Sept. 2-5.
It's a level of inconsistency tempering manager Ozzie Guillen's hope for an improbable two-week finish that would put the White Sox into the playoff picture.
"Maybe I knew about this game or I've manage this team a lot longer, but I predicted that yesterday," said Guillen of his team's letdown. "But it gets harder and harder every time we lose a game and the hole gets deeper. It gets tougher to get out of the hole."
"Their starting pitcher was great and gave them a solid start," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "We had our chances and just didn't get the hit we needed today."
Tejeda shut down the White Sox over six innings, giving up one run on three hits, while fanning five. He improved to 3-0 with an 0.81 ERA as a starter this season and has allowed just two runs in his last 30 innings pitched.
As Pierzynski mentioned, though, the White Sox had their chances.
In the fourth, after Scott Podsednik scored on Pierzynski's one-out single, the team eventually loaded the bases when Jermaine Dye drew a two-out walk from Tejeda. But Carlos Quentin, who had a home run taken away on a leaping catch over the fence by center fielder Josh Anderson leading off the third, flew out to center.
Alex Rios popped out to shortstop with runners on first and second to end the seventh, but the White Sox mounted one more serious threat in the eighth when Soria was called upon for a five-out save. A walk by Soria issued to Alexei Ramirez loaded the bases once again with two outs, but this time, Dye flew out to right.
John Buck nailed pinch-runner Dewayne Wise trying to steal second as the final out of the game, closing out a season series that ended at 9-9 for Chicago and Kansas City.
"That's kind of why he went in," said Buck, as to whether he expected Wise to be running. "That's kind of his game. I think Soria is pretty quick to the plate, so I figured he was going to be going there in an early count."
"We had to get something going," Guillen said. "I don't think it's one of the best plays of the game. It's one of those plays where when you make it, you're good. If you don't make it, it's, 'What are you doing?'"
Kansas City scored one in the first off Garcia on a wild pitch that brought home Willie Bloomquist, who had doubled and swiped third. The Royals' second run scored when Anderson singled, picked up a stolen base and came home one out later on Mitch Maier's single in the third.
Otherwise, Garcia was stellar.
"Any time Freddy goes out there this year, he gives the ballclub a chance to win," said Guillen. "He has thrown the ball very well. That surprises me because we didn't know what stage he was after a long season of rehab.
"Today is the best he has thrown. He threw a lot of strikes, eight innings. He did a good job."
While the White Sox hopes for winning the AL Central basically have come down to winning three games remaining against Minnesota and all six against Detroit, they already have found out some things about the 2010 team and beyond.
Jake Peavy has the competitive spirit and talent to work at the top of the rotation. The team has a young infield that could be set for years to come, and Garcia has the guile and pitching knowledge to round out one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball.
"He's not afraid. He goes after you. He throws his stuff," said Pierzynski of Garcia. "He's the master of changing speeds and angles on his breaking pitches and moving the ball around. As long as he's healthy, this is what he does."
"When it comes to pitching well, he never surprise me," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko of Garcia. "He's just one of those guys that knows how to go about it. It's not luck or surprising when he's doing it so many times."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.