CHICAGO -- Five things we learned following the White Sox's tough 11-8 loss to the Indians on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field ...
1. The White Sox blew a golden opportunity Friday night.
The loss was damaging but not fatal -- not the way the Twins keep treating the Central Division lead like plutonium -- but it doesn't bode well for their chances.
The White Sox are basically limping to the finish line. Injuries. Slumping hitters in the middle of the lineup. Wretched middle relievers. Orlando Cabrera sniping at teammates.
Chicago has been a resilient bunch all season and has enough high-character guys to win the next three games and force a one-game playoff against the Twins. Indeed they kept fighting to the end Friday. But it looks as if the Sox have too many problems to avoid becoming road kill in the first round.
2. Chicago can't blame Friday's loss on any hangover from its embarrassing sweep in Minnesota.
The White Sox actually jumped out to a 4-1 lead behind home runs from Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski. The U.S. Cellular crowd of 36,000-plus was rocking, especially when the scoreboard showed the Royals jumping to a 4-0 lead over the Twins.
But it all unraveled in the fifth, when the Indians scored six to end the party. Sox starter John Danks just didn't have it. He was leaving his pitches up all night, and the Tribe finally chased him with three singles and a walk. When Ozzie Guillen came out and raised his hand to signal for a reliever, he might as well have been waving a white flag because ...
3. The White Sox's bullpen stinks right now.
D.J. Carrasco came into the game for Danks with the Sox trailing 5-4 and men on first and second, and immediately walked the first batter, Jhonny Peralta. He then gave up a grand slam to Ryan Garko. When he plunked the next batter, Guillen had seen enough. Enter Mike MacDougal, whose presence on the Chicago roster remains one of the great mysteries of the universe, who came in and drilled his first batter. MacDougal eventually got out of it, but the next inning, (after Jermaine Dye homered to close the gap to 9-6) he walked three batters to load the bases with two out. Ehren Wasserman then came in and promptly walked in a run for a 10-6 Tribe lead.
"Those guys [the bullpen] should be embarrassed," Guillen said after the game. Sox fans apparently have seen enough. When a reliever did get an out, the crowd roared in derision.
4. A small hand-made sign in the Sox dugout read "Believe In Yourself" on one line and the word "Swish" underneath.
It was not clear if a teammate had made the sign, or whether it was slumping Nick Swisher's own message to his fellow Sox players. Either way, the veteran outfielder enjoyed at least a bit of success. Swisher, who entered Friday's game hitting .132 over his last 25 games, went 1-for-4 with two runs scored.
5. The Sox will pin their fading hopes on starter Javier Vazquez for Saturday night's contest.
The veteran right-hander got rocked in his last start, a 9-3 loss to the Twins that set the tone for that miserable series. Prior to that game, Guillen had called out Vazquez for not being a big-game pitcher. If he fails to deliver again with the team's season on the line, he might be joining some of those Sox relievers on the list of those not wanted back on the South Side next season.