Five Cuts: Reeling White Sox not deserving of playoff consideration
CHICAGO -- Another night, another blown opportunity for the White Sox. Here's what we learned from Chicago's 12-6 loss to the Indians on Saturday night:
1. The White Sox can't stand prosperity. For the second night in a row, Chicago got a gift from the Twins, who lost 4-2 to the Royals to all but hand them the AL Central lead. And for the second night in a row, Ozzie Guillen's reeling club gave it right back.
Chicago even followed the nearly same identical script from Friday night's loss, allowing Cleveland to blow the game open with a six-run fifth inning, then fighting back to make it close before ultimately coming up short. Weird deja vu? Yes. And the sign of a pitching staff that does not deserve to be anywhere near the postseason right now.
"We're so lucky," Guillen admitted after the game. "To get swept [in Minnesota] and then lose a series and still have a chance [to make the playoffs]? ... It's unbelievable."
2. Javier Vazquez is not a big-game pitcher. Guillen pretty much said it about his veteran right-handed starting pitcher before last week's game in Minnesota, and Saturday's performance all but confirmed it. Vazquez once again came up lacking when his team needed it the most, giving up seven runs in just over four innings to bury the Sox.
In Vazquez's defense, he was pitching on three days' rest. It is also quite possible that his arm is tired after pitching over 200 innings again this season. But the fact is Vazquez has not been able to deliver on the big stage, and Sox fans let him hear about it with a cascade of boos as he left the mound Saturday night.
Vazquez appeared to get in a heated exchange with catcher A.J. Pierzynski during a mound chat prior to leaving the game, but he declined to comment about the incident afterward. He also refused to blame his showing on arm fatigue, even though Guillen hinted afterward that he might have erred by asking Vazquez to come back so quickly. "I felt strong," Vazquez said. "I just didn't make pitches."
3. Sweet home Chicago ain't all it's cracked up to be. So much for all the talk the Sox would be fine once they got back to the Cell, where they had a 51-26 record heading into this series. Chicago has seen its offense return, belting five home runs in the first two games to increase its major-league-leading team total to 232, but the White Sox' pitching has been AWOL. Vazquez's poor showing Saturday followed a similar effort from John Danks on Friday. With their bullpen in shambles, the Sox just can't afford not to get quality outings from the starters right now. It's just one more reason why the Sox wouldn't have much hope for postseason success, even if they were to make it.
4. The Sox won't go down easily. As poorly as the Sox have played in losing five straight games, they have shown a willingness to compete until the bitter end. They could easily have folded Saturday night after the Tribe scored a run in the eighth to make it 8-2. But Chicago came back with four runs, highlighted by Paul Konerko's two-run blast off Tribe ace reliever Jensen Lewis, trimming the margin to 8-6 to briefly reignite the U.S. Cellular crowd of 36,000-plus. Alas, Chicago's sorry bullpen couldn't keep the Tribe down for even one more inning and Cleveland erupted for four more runs in the ninth to put it away.
5. Buehrle better be on the Mark. The Sox caught a major break when the Indians scratched ace left-hander Cliff Lee from his scheduled start Sunday due to a sore neck. Lee leads the AL in wins (22) and ERA (2.54). He also is 1-0 with a 0.53 ERA against Chicago in two starts this season, including a 5-0 shutout in his last outing against the Sox on Sept. 1. Instead the Sox will face right-hander Bryan Bullington, a September call-up who is 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA in two appearances this season.
Mark Buehrle will pitch for Chicago on three days' rest. It should be good enough to enable the Sox to stay alive in the Central race but with this team right now nothing is certain. As Konerko said after Saturday's game: "Everything that seems to make sense has gone the other way."