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White Sox Thu Aug 12 2010
Well, that wasn't at all how the White Sox wanted to end a crucial series against their biggest rival.
Thursday's 6-1 loss to Minnesota wasn't the end of the world; though it gave the Twins a one-game AL Central lead after the teams split the first two games, they'll meet again next week at Target Field. Yet this must rank with Chicago's more frustrating losses of the season, with a handful of critical mistakes, a bunch of runners left on base and a fateful managerial decision that helped the visitors deal the clinching blow.
The game turned in the fifth and sixth innings when the Sox, trailing 3-1 at the time, left the bases loaded twice. They also had left them loaded in the first, but that came with two outs. In the fifth, however, table-setters Gordon Beckham, Juan Pierre and Alexei Ramirez loaded the bases to start the inning against Francisco Liriano, Minnesota's reborn ace left-hander.
The stage was set for Chicago's top run producers, but Alex Rios tapped back to the pitcher for a force out at home. Paul Konerko struck out on three nasty pitches, and Carlos Quentin also went down swinging after fouling off four pitches.
An inning later, the Sox loaded the bases with one out, but Juan Pierre lined out to Denard Span in center, too shallow for a sacrifice fly with A.J. Pierzynski at third. Minnesota went to the bullpen and Matt Guerrier got Ramirez to pop up to end the inning.
Gavin Floyd, meantime, wasn't in the dominant form he showed throughout the past two months -- and which John Danks showed in Wednesday's 6-1 Chicago win -- but he had avoided serious trouble through six innings.
The Sox were kicking themselves for giving Minnesota the lead in the first place. After the teams exchanged first-inning runs, the visitors pulled ahead on a Jim Thome sacrifice fly set up by careless defense. Chicago was in a defensive shift for Thome when Michael Cuddyer stole second -- and continued to third when Pierzynski's throw sailed into center field. Ramirez, positioned on the unfamiliar side of second base, was way out of position to receive what would have been a generally accurate throw.
The visitors increased their lead an inning later when Orlando Hudson took third on a wild pitch and scored on a brain-dead balk.
Yet still, the Sox were hanging on when Floyd found trouble again in the top of seventh. Minnesota had two on and two out and Ozzie Guillen wanted to see what his 27-year-old right-hander had left in the tank. Chris Sale, the rookie lefty and Jack Skellington lookalike, was ready in the bullpen.
Floyd already had thrown a season-high 122 pitches, but Ozzie left him in to finish off cleanup hitter Jason Kubel, bypassing the typical lefty-lefty matchup.
He had faith in his budding ace, but it did not pay off. Kubel hit a rolling 0-2 breaking ball the opposite way for a three-run homer.
Ozzie told reporters he wasn't thinking of yanking Floyd when he visited the mound before the climactic at-bat. "I went out there to get him to breathe," he said, shrugging off the failure of what he called one bad pitch.
One bad pitch and one frustrating loss (and then gimpy closer Bobby Jenks tweaked his recent back injury in a mop-up appearance). But the Sox and Twins will reconvene Tuesday in Minneapolis for another three-game series. Next up, though, Chicago has to get through a weekend series with Detroit, the injury-riddled former AL Central contender that has now plummeted to 9.5 games behind Minnesota.