The White Sox were absolutely reeling coming into today, two games back on Detroit with only 4 games left to play. The game got off to a horrible start and the nightmare continued, with Jennings blasting a triple into the gap, B.J. Upton demolishing a hanging curve for a 2-run homer, and then an 8-pitch walk to Ben Zobrist. With David Price on the mound and the way the White Sox have been hitting that already seemed like enough. Quintana would rally to escape the first without further damage.
David Price took the mound with the dominant numbers you would expect, and was aiming to become the first 20-game winner in Tampa Bay’s history. The White Sox were immediately up to their old tricks in the 1st inning – Wise flared a weak single to left, but following Youkilis’ strike out managed to get himself caught stealing. Once again Robin Ventura fails to realize that Adam Dunn is very likely to hit a home run and very unlikely to hit a single – i.e. it’s really stupid to risk getting thrown out trying to move up 90 feet that don’t matter. I’ve said it before, but the White Sox offense isn’t good enough to have a really big margin for error – and throwing away outs on the basepaths and on ill-conceived bunts are enough to torpedo it completely. So despite the single to start the inning, Price only had to throw 11 pitches to get out of the first.
Quintana looked much more polished moving into the second, pitching low in the zone and missing in the dirt instead of up and out over the plate. Unfortunately, he got squeezed a bit, Jennings’ weak flare snuck just past Gordon Beckham, and he seemed really unsure as to how to get a 3rd strike when hitters wouldn’t chase out of the zone. The result was a lot of base runners, and a lot of high stress pitches thrown through two.
Meanwhile, Price cruised through the first three innings, as White Sox hitters continued to have an aggressive approach — (Read: “came out of their shoes swinging at absolutely everything”) – and managed only weak contact. Quintana’s next few innings were also marred by a Ryan Roberts solo shot with two outs in the 4th, just one of a million lefty-mashers that Joe Maddon inserted into the lineup for today.
Ground ball singles by Youkilis and Konerko around a Dunn strikeout put runners at 1st and 2nd with one out for Rios in the 4th. Rios actually looked like he had a plan at the plate, taking a few pitches low to get to 1-1 and then driving an elevated pitch to right for an RBI single, cutting Tampa’s lead to 3-1. With runners at the corners and one out, Pierzynski fouled off pitch after pitch on 0-2 and induced a Hit By Pitch off of his left forearm. Viciedo was then up with the bases loaded and hit it 380 feet to dead center – not a home run, but deep enough to allow Konerko to tag up to bring it to 3-2, and the crowd actually got fired up. Alexei would ground out, but I must say 2 runs off of Price in the inning was very positive, and for the first time today the White Sox seemed to have some hope.
The momentum shifted quickly as B.J. Upton laced a double off of Quintana, ending his afternoon after only 4+ innings. Ventura tabbed Nate Jones to come in to face the lineup that was constructed to hit a lefty starter. Jones immediately walked Zobrist to put runners at 1st & 2nd with none out and Longoria at the dish, who doubled to left. Down 4-2 with none out and runners on 2nd and 3rd, the White Sox caught a break as the infield was pulled in for a Keppinger grounder to second base. Zobrist got a bad read on it and Jones recorded a huge out without giving up a run. Ventura decided to IBB Luke Scott to set up the double play – because Robin Ventura is absolutely obsessed with double play possibilities. It would also load the bases with one out to face Ben Francisco – I was anticipating Maddon to bring in Matt Joyce to come in and obliterate Jones, but Francisco was left in to face the weak side of his platoon split. Francisco wound up hitting a sac fly to center, pushing the Rays up 5-2 before Jones recorded the 3rd out.
The next few innings were about as do or die as it gets. Price had only thrown 55 pitches through 4, the White Sox were down 3 runs, and if they lost ground again they would be down 3 games with 3 games to play.
Beckham grounded out, but then Dewayne Wise of all people worked an 0-2 count into a walk somehow to start the bottom of the 5th. But this inning became a microcosm of the September collapse in a way, as Youkilis battled to 3-2 but struck out and Wise got caught on the bases for the second time in the game, killing any sort of rally. It’s really breathtaking how Kenny Williams and Robin Ventura can make the same mistakes over and over and over again and never ever learn a single thing from them. But here we are.
The Twins moved ahead of Detroit as the Sox came up to bat in the bottom of the 6th, as Dunn and Konerko couldn’t get the ball out of the infield. Rios worked a walk, but Pierzynski promptly grounded out, and the last few grains of sand began to fall out of the hourglass.
The shadows sink slowly over U.S. Cellular field as the Rays gradually grind out a victory that would cripple the White Sox. Chicago finishes 11-17 in the month of September, tarnishing the joyful memories of an unexpectedly happy season. The funeral march toils miserably toward its seemingly inevitable conclusion as Viciedo bounces out to short while Prince Fielder puts the Tigers ahead in Minneapolis.
In the 8th, Wise leads off with another walk and once again the White Sox can’t score – Youkilis and Dunn strike out, and Konerko’s long battle at the plate ends in a weak fly out to right. The Tigers hold on to win 2-1 in Minnesota. B.J. Upton crushes another home run to left field, this time off of Addison Reed. 6-2 Tampa Bay. Rios bounces out to short on the first pitch of the 9th. Rodney has been dominant all year. Pierzynski strikes out. Orlando Hudson is up now. Hopes fail. And end comes. There is no escape. Hudson strikes out looking. Game over. The White Sox are now three games back with three games remaining.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.