Work in Sports
Thomas hurting from missed opportunities
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
CHICAGO -- Game 2 of this Division Series was barely an hour old, and it had already been a long day for White Sox slugger Frank Thomas.
Chicago trailed 2-1 when Thomas stepped to the plate with a runner on third and nobody out in the third inning. In exactly the same situation in the first, Thomas had skied a fly ball to left field, but not deep enough to score the runner.
This time he hit a pop-up to Seattle third baseman David Bell. As soon as he finished his swing the Big Hurt slammed his bat to the ground, and as he jogged back to the dugout he heard a smattering of boos from the Comiskey Park crowd.
"A guy at third base with less than two out, I have to get that run home," a despondent Thomas said after the game. "That's what I'm paid to do."
When this series began it didn't take a baseball Ph.D to know the White Sox's best -- perhaps only -- hope of beating the Mariners was to bludgeon them, to frequently remind the Seattle staff that they were the American league's highest-scoring team this season.
That has yet to happen, which is why the Mariners won Game 2, 5-2, and have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The four-hour flight to Seattle on Wednesday night gives the White Sox plenty of time to ponder their missed opportunities: In Games 1 and 2, the Sox were 3-for-23 with runners in scoring position.
"We've had chances, and the top of the order has done its job," said manager Jerry Manuel. "It's just the meat of the order not coming through."
Most of the blame for Chicago's slump must be placed on the Mariners' bullpen, which has been deadly. In the first two games Seattle relievers allowed just three hits and no runs in 11 1/3 innings of work.
Closer Kazuhiro Sasaki struck out the side on 12 pitches in the ninth for his second save of the series.
Right-hander Jose Mesa, who got Magglio Ordonez to fly out to end a threat in the ninth inning of Game 1, threw 1 2/3 perfect innings Wednesday. In the seventh, he short-circuited a Chicago rally by retiring Thomas on a fly to center with runners on first and second.
"He was throwing 95 mph with a cutter," said Thomas, who is now 3-for-22 lifetime against Mesa. "That's not natural. I've seen it time and time again [from him], but it's not natural."
No, and neither is the White Sox's sudden slump. Thomas, an MVP candidate and the centerpiece of Chicago's lineup, is 0-for-7 with two walks and eight stranded runners in the series.
"I don't feel like I'm struggling," he said. "That's the problem. I'm seeing the ball good and I feel like I'm right on the ball. I don't know what's wrong."
Thomas and the rest of the White Sox hitters have until Friday to figure it out.