Peavy, White Sox sunk by rocky first inning
Righty dominates after allowing five runs in opening frame
ARLINGTON -- If not for the first inning during Texas' 6-5 victory Wednesday night at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, then the White Sox would be playing for their second straight series win on Thursday afternoon.
But this near-miss pretty much tells the story of the White Sox disappointing 8-13 start to this 2010 campaign. It's one hit, one bad inning or possibly one pitch costing this group a chance at sustained success.
On Wednesday, the White Sox couldn't come through on a great scoring opportunity in the top of the opening inning and the Rangers (10-11) answered with five off of Jake Peavy (0-2) during the bottom half.
"Very, very tough beginning of the game," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of the first frame he would like to forget.
"We fell down, 5-0, but we didn't quit," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who busted loose from his season-long slump with two hits.
That fight-until-the-end attitude for the White Sox was fully on display in the ninth, when they came within inches of erasing a three-run deficit against Texas closer Neftali Feliz (third save). Carlos Quentin, who hit a three-run home run to chop Texas' five-run advantage in the sixth, started the one-out uprising with a double.
Pierzynski doubled home Quentin, and Alexei Ramirez singled home Pierzynski to make it a 6-5 game. Juan Pierre ended the night with pinch-hitter Andruw Jones on deck when Elvis Andrus threw him out by one-quarter step at first on a high hopper to shortstop, but Mark Kotsay's at-bat three hitters earlier truly changed the scope of the inning.
Kotsay, mired in a 4-for-34 slump to start the season, hit the ball hard in three of his four at-bats Wednesday. None of the baseballs were hit harder than a line drive he smashed toward the right-field corner with one out and Quentin on second.
Instead of having a run in and a big ninth going, though, first baseman Justin Smoak made an amazing, leaping catch for the inning's second out and an 0-for-4 hung on Kotsay.
"I told Mark I can't believe that guy caught the ball," Pierzynski said. "Great swing, and if that ball falls in and my ball falls in, we are 6-6 and hopefully talking about a win instead of a loss. It's definitely frustrating."
"Late in the game, we fight back," Guillen said. "We throw the ball out of the bullpen. Then, Peavy turns around very quick and gives us a pretty good game. I hope that's a good sign, for our offense and pitching."
Part of the reason the White Sox couldn't quit was because of the hole Peavy helped dig in the first. A main reason for the South Siders' chance to get back in this game was Peavy's stellar work for the next five innings.
In innings two through six, Peavy walked two, fanned seven and didn't allow a hit. Unfortunately, Peavy gave up five runs on four hits in the first.
The right-hander also threw 42 pitches. After Josh Hamilton launched a mammoth 430-foot, two-run home run, Peavy walked the bases loaded and watched them unload on singles from Joaquin Arias and Julio Borbon.
Peavy believes the next five innings were proof of how the major change made in his mechanics prior to his last start against Tampa Bay is a process moving in the positive direction. It doesn't make Wednesday's loss any more palatable, and the same goes for Peavy's three outings this season where he has allowed at least six earned runs.
"You are not paid to try to find your mechanics. The bottom line is about winning and losing," said Peavy, whose ERA sits at 7.85 after his 6 1/3 innings against the Rangers. "That's what's frustrating for me.
"It's coming. You see it, but it's frustrating at the same time. If I make one pitch in that first, one good pitch to [Matt] Treanor, one good pitch to Arias to Borbon, make one pitch and we have a good chance to win that game. We are sitting here in a whole different press conference."
Texas starter Rich Harden (1-1) exited after six innings, during which he never retired the White Sox in order. The right-hander walked five, hit two, gave up four hits and threw just 46 of his 87 pitches for strikes.
Before Texas scored five in the first, the White Sox had runners on first and third with one out in the top half, but Paul Konerko hit into an inning-ending double play. That twin-killing theme would play out during the entire contest, with Mark Teahen grounding into a double play in the fourth and Pierre ending the fifth and seventh with double-play grounders.
"Early in that game, we couldn't do a lot of damage," Guillen said. "Harden was doing everything to give up runs, but he makes one pitch every inning. Just one pitch in every inning he pitches, to get out of it."
"One of those frustrating nights," Pierzynski said. "It was weird because it seemed like we had bases loaded or guys all over every inning and couldn't score. We fell down 5-0 and didn't quit. We had a chance in the ninth and it didn't work out."
Gavin Floyd takes the mound on Thursday in an attempt to help the White Sox avoid their second sweep of 2010. They had some encouraging signs coming from the end of Wednesday's contest, from Peavy to the ninth-inning rally. But the first inning cost them a much-needed victory.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.