04/18/07 12:33 AM ET
Home runs besiege White Sox
Garland gives up two, MacDougal one in lopsided loss
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
It would have been easy for the team to lose faith following Tuesday's 8-1 shellacking at the hands of the Rangers before 23,139 at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox (5-7) lost their third straight, with the team scoring a mere two runs and knocking out 18 hits over the past 27 innings.
But their resolve for success seems to have grown even stronger as this offensive funk deepens. The White Sox understand their talented lineup will hit. It's just a question of when the offense will get hot.
"Every team goes through a little phase at some point like this, and a handful of teams go through it right at the start," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who had one of the team's four hits off Texas starter Robinson Tejeda (2-1) and two relievers. "The question is how many games are you going to drop during it?
"That's the key, cutting it quick. Nipping it and getting on track. You try to compete as best you can. Sometimes, there are no answers. The best thing you can do is put blinders on, keep playing hard and not think about it."
Behind Jim Thome's 440-foot clout leading off the fourth, the White Sox actually grabbed a brief 1-0 lead. Thome's third home run gave him 475 for his illustrious career, tying him with Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 24th on the all-time list.
A missed double play in the fifth, though, presented Texas (6-7) with the chance it needed to jump in front. With Hank Blalock on first and one out, Ian Kinsler hit what looked to be an inning-ending, around-the-horn twin-killing to Joe Crede at third. Crede made a strong throw to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, but Iguchi couldn't control the throw long enough to turn the double play.
Brad Wilkerson followed with a long, two-out home run on a 1-0 pitch from Jon Garland (0-1), and the Rangers never looked back. Garland pitched much better than his line -- five runs allowed on five hits over seven innings -- would indicate, but the right-hander pointed the finger of blame squarely back at himself after his first decision of the new season.
"I gave up five runs. Explain to me how that is good?" said a defiant Garland, responding to a reporter who asked if Garland thought he pitched well. "Mentally, I didn't stay on it. I gave up and it showed.
"Basically, I gave the hitter what he was looking for in that certain situation and I'm better than that. I need to go out and give my team a chance to win. I didn't do that tonight."
Garland pointed to the pitch to Wilkerson as an example of his self criticism. He said Wilkerson was sitting on a fastball on the 1-0 pitch that he drove out, and that's the pitch Garland provided.
"Personally, I think it's the only way he gets to a fastball, if he's looking for it," said Garland of Wilkerson.
Kinsler pounded out his seventh home run in the seventh, a three-run shot that gave Tejeda a little room to work. But the blast heard around Chicago came in the eighth inning, when Sammy Sosa launched an 0-2 pitch from reliever Mike MacDougal into the right-center stands.
Sosa had endured the fans' jeers and jabs all night but celebrated his third home run with a pronounced hop at home plate and by holding his arms out like an airplane as he rounded first base after the three-run shot. Ozzie Guillen walked Mark Teixeira intentionally to get to Sosa and said he would do it again Wednesday and Thursday.
"I'm not scared of Sammy," Guillen said. "As long as Teixeira hits in front of Sammy, he will walk a lot from Ozzie Guillen. I respect Sammy as a player and as a hitter. But right now I'm facing Sammy Sosa and I'm not facing Teixeira. Teixeira is not going to beat me."
"Tough crowd," added Konerko of the reaction to Sosa. "I was a little surprised. But what are you going to say? You can say a lot about him, but you can't say he doesn't hit. The guy can hit."
This same analysis could not be used to presently describe the White Sox lineup. A.J. Pierzynski had two hits off Tejeda, raising his average to .189, but refused to make excuses for his team's slump.
"No excuses, no reasoning. I don't know. It's just one of those things," Pierzynski said. "Right now, we have seven or eight guys not swinging the bat well, and we are not swinging the bat well as a team."
Yet, the White Sox reaction to offensive failure stayed pretty similar to what it has been the last few days. Guillen said he would like to help the offense by putting on hit-and-runs, but nobody is on base to use such a maneuver.
Konerko felt bad for the pitchers, who try to be too perfect, working within their small room for error, and end up making mistakes in the process. But Garland put the biggest exclamation point on what he expects from this team in the future, taking his outlook a little deeper than the basic theory that his offense will come around soon.
"I think we have the best team in the American League, bar none," Garland said. "I wouldn't rather pitch for another team in this league right now. Teams coming into this field when we are going to face them should not want to play us.
"It's going to happen. It's a long season, and right now, whether it's the cold or guys not seeing the ball, it will turn around. When it does, it's going to be a sight to see."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.