04/15/07 7:11 PM ET
White Sox shut down in chilly Cleveland
Bats can't get anything going against Indians ace Sabathia
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Even with the game-time temperature checking in at 39 degrees for Sunday's first pitch, with a wind-chill factor in the 25-degree range. Even with C.C. Sabathia on the mound for the Indians, the same Sabathia who carried with him a 13-3 career record over 21 previous starts against the White Sox, and the same big left-hander who toppled the South Siders on Opening Day.
But a little over two hours and 30 minutes after Grady Sizemore ripped the Indians' lone hit into the Jacobs Field right-field corner as the first batter to face Jose Contreras, Guillen was looking up at the short end of a 2-1 final before 14,887 fans chilled to the bone. The loss could be attributed to a streak of wildness from Contreras (1-2), who walked five in five innings, and threw only 56 of his 101 pitches for strikes.
The team's usually airtight defense also committed three errors, two by Joe Crede, who features one of the best gloves at third base in all of baseball. Those miscues, along with a Gustavo Molina passed ball, made both runs unearned that were scored against Contreras.
Ultimately, though, the reason for the setback fell under the same heading that has plagued the White Sox (5-6) for much of the last week -- a complete lack of offensive production. While Sabathia (3-0) more than did his job with 10 strikeouts and limiting the White Sox to six singles, this high-powered attack has not been able to come through in the clutch or in many other less-pressurized situations, for that matter, since the start of the 2007 campaign.
"Right now, we are colder than the weather," said Guillen of an offense that has a .222 average through 11 games and 38 runs scored.
"I know we are doing everything we've done in the past, but we just aren't getting it done right now," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski added. "And I'm at the top of the list. It's been frustrating."
Pierzynski didn't start on Sunday, giving way to Molina in Guillen's lineup featuring eight right-handed hitters and Darin Erstad, against one of the toughest left-handed hurlers in all of baseball. But Pierzynski did have a chance to produce with pinch-runner Alex Cintron on first and two outs in the ninth, before striking out swinging against closer Joe Borowski (fifth save).
This game-ending strikeout dropped Pierzynski's average to .147. Erstad, mired in a 2-for-24 funk, has watched his average slide to .189, while Paul Konerko checks in at .211 and Tadahito Iguchi sits at .214.
With these struggles in mind, Guillen was contemplating a few lineup changes for Tuesday's series opener at home against Texas, after Sunday's loss left the White Sox with a 3-3 record on this six-game road trip.
"I might put Iguchi second and Erstad batting in the sixth or seventh spot, just to get a different feel," Guillen said. "I might go lefty-righty, lefty-righty, lefty-righty all the way to the end. I'm looking for something different and hope it works."
"We just need to find some way to get our confidence going," added White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye, who drove in the only run off Sabathia with a bloop single down the right-field line in the sixth. "It might be putting up 10 to 15 hits per game or scoring nine or 10 runs, where everyone gets a couple of hits. We need something like that to get us going, and hopefully that will be soon."
Even before Sunday's first pitch, Guillen sat in his office and joked about his team's chances against the harsh weather and Sabathia. Cleveland (6-3) put at least two runners on base in three of the five innings worked by Contreras, but the Indians could only score on Trot Nixon's groundout in the first and on a bases-loaded walk issued to Sizemore in the fourth after Crede's throwing error on Jhonny Peralta's grounder set up the inning.
Sunday marked a frustrating overall set of circumstances for Crede, who was ejected by home-plate umpire Jerry Meals after disputing a called third strike to end the sixth with runners on first and second. His second career ejection came into play in the eighth, with Pablo Ozuna (2-for-4) on third and two outs, as the left-handed hitting Rob Mackowiak now had to face Sabathia.
Mackowiak rapped a hard grounder up the middle, which deflected off of Sabathia's pitching hand to Casey Blake at third, who proceeded to throw out Mackowiak.
"That's part of the game, getting kicked out," said Guillen of missing Crede's bat in the eighth inning. "Especially when you struggle, you get frustrated."
Frustration has enveloped the White Sox offense as a whole. But that frustration certainly will not turn into self-doubt amongst this talented veteran group.
Factor in Cleveland's low output on Sunday, and the White Sox have a 4-3 record in 2007 when holding opponents to three runs or less. Then again, the White Sox believe these numbers will even out over the course of a 162-game season.
"We are just not very good and not swinging the bat real well," Pierzynski said. "We have been fortunate the pitching has been as good as it has been to give us chances in a lot of these games. But it will turn and when it does, someone is going to pay."
"C.C. Sabathia is a great pitcher and they played good," added Contreras through translator Omer Munoz. "That's baseball -- one hit and they won the game."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.