Wasted chances spell doom for White Sox
Club loses in extras after squandering scoring opportunities
CHICAGO -- So, it's April 8, just three games into the 2010 regular season, and if you are a White Sox fan, losing two of three to the Indians to start what promises to be an exciting campaign, albeit at home, just isn't that big of a deal.
Ozzie Guillen seems to disagree.
Well, Guillen doesn't disagree about plenty of baseball still being left to play. But after Thursday's 5-3 loss to Cleveland in 11 innings, the White Sox manager spoke of a disturbing trend in this season-opening series having the opportunity to turn that excitement into disappointment in a hurry.
It's an issue that caused Guillen consternation last year, in the form of strikeouts by his offense with runners in scoring position. In Thursday's setback, the White Sox had four strikeouts with a runner on third base and two of those came with less than two outs.
"When you talk about this ballclub, we can't have the luxury to strike out with people on base," a frustrated Guillen said during his brief postgame press conference. "This ballclub, we have to put the ball more in play, make things happen.
"I know they're trying to get better at-bats with people on base, but I've seen so many strikeouts with people on base. I know it's the third game of the season and I know it's cold, but we had too many strikeouts."
Against Cleveland starter Justin Masterson, the White Sox had two opportunities to take control.
Andruw Jones was hit by a pitch with one out in the second and moved to third on A.J. Pierzynski's single to left-center. But Masterson struck out Alex Rios swinging, and Mark Teahen grounded out to second baseman Luis Valbuena to end the threat.
Teahen's one out walk and singles from Alexei Ramirez and Juan Pierre loaded the bases in the fifth. This time, it was Gordon Beckham, who looks as locked in as any White Sox hitter this week, swinging through a Masterson fastball for a third strike. A bases-loaded walk to Carlos Quentin cut Cleveland's lead to 2-1, but Paul Konerko struck out to end the inning.
Ramirez struck out against reliever Tony Sipp with runners on second and third to end the sixth.
"Tonight was really frustrating. Any way you look at it, it was frustrating," Beckham said. "I felt like we hit balls hard going right at people and there were some balls they hit that kind of blooped in. The whole thing wasn't going our way.
"Nobody wants to strike out with the bases loaded, that's very frustrating. I don't consider myself a guy that strikes out a lot. I don't know, it's just a rough night."
Even with the strikeout issues, the White Sox looked in position to give Sergio Santos his first Major League victory in his first Major League appearance. Santos, the converted infielder, struck out one during a perfect seventh inning in relief of starter Gavin Floyd, who fanned seven and gave up two runs over six.
Quentin connected off of Joe Smith for his first home run this season, scoring Pierre in front of him, for a 3-2 White Sox advantage. But Cleveland rallied against the seemingly unhittable Matt Thornton in the top of the eighth.
After Thornton fanned Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner reached on a bad-hop single over Konerko's glove and lumbered home on Jhonny Peralta's double to right-center. Thornton prevented further damage by striking out Valbuena with runners on second and third.
Cleveland pushed across the winning run in the 11th off of J.J. Putz, when Asdrubal Cabrera's soft single to right scored Valbuena. Guillen didn't look to his hurlers for a moment, though, as a reason for defeat.
"Great job. Our pitching staff did a tremendous job," Guillen said. "All our pitchers threw well. We had plenty of opportunities to score some runs, but we didn't put the ball in play. And that's what happens when you have the kind of club we have. We better start putting the ball in play more often."
Mark Buehrle's pitching excellence and gold glove led the White Sox to a 6-0 Opening Day victory, with the help of Konerko's two-run home run. The South Siders proceeded to lose the next two, limping into this weekend's matchup against Minnesota, which took three out of four in Anaheim. The Indians are considered a non-contender, while the Angels are looked at with vast playoff potential, at least judging by early-season prognostications.
Again, it's only three games. Through those three games, the White Sox have 19 walks and 14 hits, which is their lowest total for the first three games since they had 13 in 1984. Teahen is hitless for the season, Ramirez is off to another slow April start with a .091 mark and the White Sox are hitting .154 as a team.
As for getting the job done with runners in scoring position, the White Sox finished 3-for-18 against the Indians. They were not only making outs but not putting the ball in play, which had Guillen truly bothered.
"We want to score runs so bad that we're almost pressing a little bit to score runs," Beckham said. "We are almost geared up too much instead of just letting the runs kind of come to us. We're good hitters and we haven't really showed it lately. It'll come. We're better than that and we just have to come to the park tomorrow ready to play."
"They got a good club, and we don't take anyone for granted," Guillen said. "We had a chance to win all three but didn't. And disappointed? Yes. When they had to put the ball in play, they did. And we don't. That's why they beat us."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.