Despite big blast, White Sox come up shy
Lead supplied by Konerko homer slips away in New York
NEW YORK -- The month of April came to end with a resounding thud for the White Sox during their 6-4 loss to the Yankees on Friday night before 44,783 at Yankee Stadium.
This setback marked the White Sox 12th during their past 14 games in the Bronx, but of greater significance to the 2010 season, it left the South Siders with a 9-14 overall record, a 1-3 record on this six-game road trip and staring at a six-game deficit behind the American League Central-leading Twins. Even the second-place Tigers have a 4 1/2-game lead on the White Sox.
At the end of Friday's action, when Mariano Rivera (seventh save) struck out Gordon Beckham, manager Ozzie Guillen was left to think not so much about another defeat he witnessed on the field, but the shocking information he witnessed throughout the evening on the scoreboard.
"We have five guys hitting .180 -- under .200," Guillen said. "That's the reason right there -- .180, .190, a couple guys at .213. It's just hard."
Here are the exact averages spoken of by Guillen. Juan Pierre, who was dropped from the leadoff spot to the ninth hole, finished April with a .193 mark and a mere 17 singles and one RBI in 88 at-bats. A.J. Pierzynski is hitting .169, Mark Kotsay dropped to .108 after a pinch-hit groundout in the eighth and Carlos Quentin, despite signs this week of breaking free from his slump, enters May at .187.
As a team, the White Sox are batting an AL-worst .223, while stunning Guillen by ranking third from the bottom in on-base percentage and leading the AL in double plays. With all of that doom and gloom in mind, though, the White Sox certainly have not been dominated in many of their 23 games.
Friday's games marked the eighth time this season the White Sox have lost after holding a lead. That advantage against the Yankees (15-7) started at 3-0, when Paul Konerko launched his Major League-best 11th home run to right off of Andy Pettitte in the first inning with Alexei Ramirez and Beckham on base. Konerko's drive set an April franchise record for home runs.
That lead held up until the fifth when Brett Gardner's single ended a stretch of 12 straight retired by Freddy Garcia, and Derek Jeter followed with a two-run home run to tie the game at 4. Garcia finished with a no-decision, allowing four runs on five hits over six innings, striking out two.
"They hit it pretty good. They hit really good pitches," Garcia said. "You can't make mistakes with those guys. Got to make sure you throw down. I make a good pitch to Gardner, and he puts it in play. I throw a breaking pitch to Jeter, and it was a bad pitch."
Jeter was just getting started on this particular evening. His two-run triple into the right-field corner off reliever Matt Thornton (2-2) scored Gardner and Francisco Cervelli with the decisive runs in the seventh.
Jayson Nix made a rare start in right field, because Andruw Jones was scratched with back spasms and Quentin's strained left hamstring wasn't healthy enough to play the field. The utility infielder made every possible effort to get to Jeter's drive, but came up about half a glove length short.
"If he would have made that play, I would have taken him out for a beer tonight," said Thornton of Nix's attempt. "He made every effort he had."
"He's tough on righties, too, because he throws so hard and he's so tall," said Jeter of Thornton. "You just try to get a good pitch to hit."
It was the White Sox who had a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh, with runners on first and second and two outs after reliever Alfredo Aceves (2-0) intentionally walked Konerko. But Quentin hit a rocket right into the glove of third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Thornton inadvertently started New York's winning rally when he hit Cervelli with one out. The hit batsman came on a 0-2 pitch, followed by Gardner's single up the middle as the result of an eight-pitch battle.
"Pretty frustrating," said Thornton, who showed rare displeasure on the mound after hitting Cervelli. "It's a situation where you get the leadoff guy out, which is always your goal when you come into the game. Then, I had [Cervelli] 0-2 and made two really good pitches against him and then made a pretty big mistake. Gardner had a really great at-bat. He stayed up the middle on a pitch and he got a base hit.
"Then, I made a mistake on Jeter: one, falling behind 2-0, and then having to come back with a strike and he almost kept that fair. Then I left a ball over the plate a little bit. I didn't make the pitches when I needed to, and those are the results against a really good team."
Opposing teams can get away with a few mistakes against the White Sox because, quite frankly, they aren't close to a really good team as April mercifully ends. Their starting pitching has been up and down, their offense has been stagnant and they have a 6-9 record in games decided by two runs or fewer.
But there's five months ahead to turn around this season.
"Yeah, it was a bad month," Thornton said. "It's out of the way. We can't hover over that. You have to move forward and continue to go out and compete and play good baseball and start coming out on the other side of some one- and two-run games."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.