05/17/07 2:07 AM ET
Contreras foiled by ex-mates
Silent offense, error result in doubleheader split
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
An 8-1 loss to the Yankees in Game 2 came well after John Danks' brilliant pitching performance in the opener, leading to a 5-3 victory. This particular combination kept the White Sox (19-17) two games over .500, and with Detroit's game being cancelled on Wednesday, the South Siders remain four games back and in third place in the AL Central.
The White Sox know what their short-term goal remains, in regard to beating the Yankees (18-20) on Thursday afternoon and capturing their fourth straight series win. But a murky pitching situation for Sunday's series finale against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, a decision predicated on the efforts turned in by starters Danks and Jose Contreras, didn't clear up much after the doubleheader.
Danks used 88 pitches to efficiently get through 6 2/3 innings, leading to his second straight victory after four losses to begin his Major League career. But immediately after this stellar performance concluded, manager Ozzie Guillen expressed a preference to keep Danks on his normal starting routine and not bring him back Sunday on three days' rest.
Contreras (3-4) needed 100 pitches for his 6 2/3-inning effort, a total that seemingly would rule out the big right-hander from Sunday's short-rest start, especially with the White Sox always careful to err on the side of providing an extra day for their right-handed ace. But Guillen seemed to be leaning toward starting Contreras when discussing the issue after Wednesday night's loss, an idea Contreras thought was definitely plausible.
"I don't know. It's how our bullpen is doing," said Guillen of his plan for possibly starting Contreras against the Cubs. "If we have a clear and rested bullpen, it can help Jose. I'm leaning more to Jose than I am to Danks. If [Contreras] starts Sunday, we will monitor how many pitches he's going to throw."
"I'll come [Thursday] and see how I feel and go from there," added Contreras through translator Oney Guillen. "I don't know my pitch count, but I feel good."
When Contreras was apprised of his pitch count, he seemed more than amenable to come back Sunday. This is the same pitcher who regularly threw 150 or 160 pitches in high-pressure games for his country of Cuba, albeit when he was seven or eight years younger.
Against his first Major League team, Contreras didn't exactly receive yeoman-like assistance behind him, with only two of the four runs he allowed being earned. The Yankees scored two in the third to grab the early lead, breaking Contreras' streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings, with shortstop Juan Uribe's one-out error on Derek Jeter's grounder starting the rally.
The two runs actually came home with two outs, when Hideki Matsui crushed a ball directly over the head of Darin Erstad in center. Erstad broke in and over on his first step but couldn't readjust in time to make the play.
"I didn't want to throw the pitch to Matsui where I did," said Contreras, who threw only 58 of his 100 pitches for strikes, but still fanned six and walked just three. "I wanted it down and away, and it stayed up. I got in trouble when I got down in the count."
New York added two in the seventh on Bobby Abreu's run-scoring single and Jeter's triple to right-center and took complete control with four runs in the ninth when facing reliever Andrew Sisco. The White Sox scored their lone run off Chien Ming Wang (2-3) in the sixth on Rob Mackowiak's single, but Pablo Ozuna was thrown out at third on the play to end the potential rally before it got started.
Gustavo Molina provided the primary offensive highlight for the home team, knocking out his first Major League hit after 16 straight hitless at-bats with a one-out single off Wang in the third. Molina, who was the last player from a Major League Opening Day roster to get a hit, picked up the baseball and then was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game.
A corresponding move is to be announced prior to Thursday's series finale, which is certain to be catcher Toby Hall's return from injury rehab, marking the culmination of his amazing seven-week recovery from a torn right labrum. Molina earned high marks for handling the vaunted White Sox pitching staff, but the struggling White Sox offense needs a more-seasoned bat to give starter A.J. Pierzynski a respite from time-to-time.
Pierzynski finished 0-for-2 Wednesday night after pinch-hitting for Molina in the seventh, ending his seven-game hitting streak. White Sox hitters also have gone 4-for-31 with runners in scoring position over the last five games, finishing 1-for-8 Wednesday night, and still don't have a hitter with more than that seven-game hitting streak.
They also are lacking a definitive starting pitcher for Sunday at Wrigley, with a Minor League callup still serving as an option. More information will be known Thursday, as the White Sox try to move into the Cubs series on a positive note.
"We pitched well going all the way to the last inning. Contreras threw the ball well," said Guillen, whose starter had a string of 19 straight innings without an earned run snapped in the seventh, and fell to 2-2 lifetime against the Yankees. "We have to come back [Thursday] and hopefully win the series, and hopefully start swinging better."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.