04/12/08 1:15 AM ET
Strange setting sends White Sox to loss
Chicago hitters struggle against Detroit relievers on cold night
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
For starters, the White Sox managed just four hits during their 5-2 loss to the Tigers before 26,094 frigid followers. But that paltry production came in a contest in which Detroit starter Dontrelle Willis lasted just two batters. Willis hyperextended his right knee as he slipped on his first pitch to Orlando Cabrera, and he stayed in the game long enough to complete his second straight walk.
The quartet of Aquilino Lopez (1-0), Jason Grilli, Denny Bautista and Todd Jones (first save) combined to strike out 10 and walk two while allowing four singles, as the White Sox (5-4) lost their second straight. Paul Konerko, who drove in the team's first run with a sacrifice fly in the opening inning, gave much of the credit to Lopez.
"Not many times when your starting pitcher goes out three hitters into the game do you win that game," Konerko said. "So, the fellow who came in right off the bat [Lopez], you have to tip your hat to him.
"He's down there in 30-degree weather with a coat on, and the next thing you know, he's in the fire. He threw pretty well. That was kind of the difference. How he throws will dictate how that game goes, and he threw pretty good."
Lopez allowed Carlos Quentin's run-scoring single in the second, but he did not give up another run over four innings. In fact, the White Sox went from Quentin's hit to the eighth inning before they could muster another one. Jermaine Dye laced a two-out single to left, at that point, but he was thrown out at second by left fielder Clete Thomas.
Speaking of being thrown out, the White Sox most unlikely candidate for ejection received an early exit in the fifth, as home-plate umpire James Hoye tossed designated hitter Jim Thome for arguing balls and strikes. Jason Grilli, a one-time White Sox reliever and spot starter, had put two runners on with one out by hitting Quentin and walking Cabrera before Thome had worked the count full.
Thome seemed to take slight umbrage with Hoye's first called strike of the sequence. When Hoye punched out Thome on a pitch that looked low, a Grilli offering that catcher Ivan Rodriguez actually dropped, one of the more easygoing players in the game watched his anger boil over.
"It's a little spurring. It's kind of like seeing your father get upset," said Konerko with a smile of Thome's vehement dispute over the call, leading to his third career ejection. "But I have to say if there's one to get thrown out on -- how all that shook out -- he got his money's worth. That's a big call, and I think [Jim] was right. Sometimes you can't lay down -- so you speak your mind. That was a huge call."
"You eject Jim Thome, and it's a guy who never says anything to anyone," added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "He thought the ball was low. The umpire saw the ball different."
Dye's single stood as the lone baserunner for the White Sox over the final four innings. This offensive dearth produced the season's first loss for Jose Contreras (0-1), who has ended up on the short end of the score 27 times since the 2006 All-Star break.
Contreras actually took a big step forward from his first start last Friday against Detroit (2-8), yielding four runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings while striking out two and walking three. Four of those hits and three runs came as part of the Tigers' third-inning rally.
"Some pitches stayed up in the zone during that inning," Contreras said through translator and bullpen coach Juan Nieves, after Detroit started the rally with an Edgar Renteria double and ended it with Magglio Ordonez's two-run single. "I gave up some runs, but, overall, my outing was solid and I felt strong."
"I know he can pitch better, but he threw good," Guillen added. "He kept our ballclub in the game, and we [didn't] give him anything to win."
Boone Logan relieved Contreras in the seventh, and he allowed one inherited runner to score. Logan then gave up his first earned run of the season in the eighth. His outing meant an end to his Abraham Lincoln-looking black goatee, which was cut off by Mark Buehrle in the home dugout after Logan left the game.
Just another weird occurrence on a night when the winds were blowing at 15 mph, an evening more fit for snowboarding than a battle in the American League Central.
"This was just one of those April games where it was cold and you knew there was not going to be a whole bunch of offense," said Konerko, whose team had one hit in its final 25 at-bats. "Every run becomes meaningful. Jose threw the ball great. I thought he battled out there. Unfortunately, we didn't get him the win."
"That reminded me of a couple of years ago, when [Detroit's Jeremy] Bonderman got thrown out in the first inning and all of a sudden, [Wilfredo] Ledezma came out and shut us down," added Guillen, referring to a game at U.S. Cellular from late July 2004. "Their bullpen did a tremendous job, and we [didn't] swing the bat as a team today."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.