Anatomy of a meltdown: Sox implode vs. Baltimore

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Anatomy of a meltdown: Sox implode vs. Baltimore

A 4-1 lead heading into the eighth inning. That sounds pretty good for a White Sox bullpen that was lining up Jesse Crain and Hector Santiago to finish the game off.

The Orioles practically handed the White Sox that three-run lead, playing generally deplorable baseball through the first seven innings of Monday's contest. So when Matt Wieters went deep off Crain in the eighth, it didn't seem like much of a threat. One solo home run wasn't going to be the undoing of the Sox.

Crain scuffled through the rest of the inning, walking Mark Reynolds and giving up a single to Chris Davis with two out before striking out Robert Andino looking to hold the Orioles at bay.

The Sox were put away easily in the eighth outside of an A.J. Pierzynski single. Whatever, just get Santiago in, nail down the save and improve to 6-3.

Santiago was pretty well squeezed against Nolan Reimold to lead off the top of the ninth, throwing two pitches that were in the strike zone that were called balls. The latter of those pitches should've been strike three, and it was followed up with a home run. 4-3. The sequence, via Brooks Baseball:

That sixth pitch was a mid-90's fastball just out of the strike zone on the outer third. Given the inside corner was taken away in the sequence, though, Santiago could've stood to elevate that pitch more, or get it a little further outside. Reimold was able to cheat to the outer third, and it helped him make it a one-run game.

Should Santiago have struck Reimold out? Absolutely. Should he have thrown a better 3-2 offering? Absolutely. You can only blame umpires for so much, and Lance Barrett didn't throw a hittable payoff pitch.

Barrett then gave Santiago some generous calls in the next two at-bats -- Don Cooper's argument and subsequent ejection maybe helped with that -- which left Adam Jones as the last remaining player standing between the Sox and a win.

But Santiago absolutely grooved a 2-1 fastball, which Jones promptly belted for a game-tying home run. There wasn't much to this one. It was just a fastball right down the middle, and Jones, possessing good power, whacked it over the fence.

Okay, so that's a rough way to lose a lead. But it only tied the game, and at home, the Sox did have a chance to win it in the bottom of the frame. A 1-2-3 bottom of the inning, which ended with a soft Gordon Beckham flyout on a hanging slider, washed away that chance.

And then the top of the 10th happened. The gory details don't really need to be re-hashed, but needless to say it wasn't the finest hour for Zach Stewart, Alejandro De Aza and the right side of the White Sox infield.

When the dust settled, Baltimore led 10-4. After being down 4-1 heading into the eighth.

This is the kind of loss the White Sox can't afford to take. The Orioles gave the Sox every possible opportunity to win the game, but the Sox didn't take advantage. And the Orioles are not a good team, no matter what their 6-4 record may show.

The White Sox don't have a big margin for error in 2012. Even a handful of losses like Monday's could be the difference between contention and not playing meaningful games in August and September.

White Sox offense can't stay hot in loss to A's

White Sox offense can't stay hot in loss to A's

A day after having quite the offensive party, the White Sox didn’t save any production for Friday.

The White Sox couldn’t muster any offense in a 3-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics in their series opener at Guaranteed Rate Field in front of 25,370 fans.

After recording 18 hits in Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, the White Sox were held to just seven on Friday, but it felt like fewer. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Mike Pelfrey, who fell to 3-6 on the season, took a step back after delivering a strong performance in his last outing against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 33-year-old struggled with his command against the A’s all night. He pitched 4 2/3 innings and issued five walks. Pelfrey also allowed all three runs on four hits and two homers.

The A’s got on the board early with a two-run shot to center field by Khris Davis. In the fifth, Pelfrey allowed another homer, a solo shot, to Matt Joyce to make it 3-0.

The White Sox bullpen staved off any further production and combined for 4 1/3 shutout innings between four relievers. But they weren’t able to generate any of their own.

Not even ejections from Tim Anderson and Rick Renteria could spark a cold offense.

The White Sox best chance came in the bottom of the ninth, where Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu opened with back-to-back singles. After an Avisail Garcia flyout, Todd Frazier popped one over A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso, but Abreu was thrown out at second. Matt Davidson flew out to center field at the warning track to end the game.

Friday marked the start of a season-long 10-game homestand, somewhere the White Sox were happy to be after playing 15 of their last 19 on the road.

Don Cooper remembers what made Mark Buehrle so special 

Don Cooper remembers what made Mark Buehrle so special 

Mark Buehrle didn’t have the kind of attributes found in most of the dominant pitchers of the post-steroid era. He was a 38th-round draft pick with a fastball that, on a good day, would scrap the upper 80’s. 

On Saturday, Buehrle will become the third pitcher to have his number retired in White Sox history, joining Ted Lyons (No. 16) and Billy Pierce (No. 19). For Don Cooper, who was Buehrle’s pitching coach from 2002-2011, it’s not hard to see why the St. Charles, Mo. native’s name will forever be a part of White Sox history. 

“Reliable, consistent, dependable, winner, good guy, unflappable, these are words that come to mind when I think about him,” Cooper said. 

Cooper was flooded with plenty of memories of Buehrle during the dozen minutes he spent chatting with the media on Friday. He said he learned a lot from working with Buehrle, watching him fill up the strike zone and induce early, weak contact while working at a brisk pace. One of Cooper's memories that stood out was this one:

“I can remember in the bullpen, he’d be warming up, he’d throw about 10 pitches,” Cooper said. “He’d look at me, I’d look at him. He wasn’t throwing very good. He turned to me and said, ‘Come on, let’s go, this isn’t going to get me any better.’”

But that was Buehrle — “In many ways, you could just wind him up and you’re throwing him out there every five days,” Cooper said. He battled through days where he didn’t have his best stuff — not that his stuff was electric to begin with — and turned in 14 consecutive years with 200 or more innings. 

Buehrle, of course, threw a no-hitter in 2007 and a perfect game in 2009, and along with save in Game 3 of the World Series represent some of the crowning achievements of his career. Cooper was happy to have been a part of it from his perch on the White Sox bench. 

“I think he was blessed,” Cooper said. “He was given a lot of gifts. The sinking fastball, the changeup, the cutter. His curveball, by scouts’ assessments, would probably be rated an average curveball. But as time went and as his stuff went down, we started to use that more. When he was at his best, we would throw about 8-10 of those. But as he started losing his stuff we had to mix more of those in. And listen, the career he had, his number being retired, the kids, his family — blessed. He’s been a blessed guy.”