Things were looking up for the White Sox halfway through their game Friday night, but as has often been the case in 2013, the last-place club saw things fall apart.
Josh Donaldson's grand slam in the sixth off Chris Sale was enough to send the White Sox to a 4-3 loss, the team's 10th in its last 11 games, in front of 22,861 at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Sox had a few chances to make a comeback, stranding the tying run on second in the eighth and watching as A's right fielder Josh Reddick robbed Conor Gillaspie of what would've been an equalizing home run in the ninth.
"I know we are not playing like we want to play or should play, pitching, defense, hitting, all that stuff, but we're just running into some tough breaks, running into some bad luck," Sale said. "Robbing a home run, that's when you know it's not going your way at all."
The White Sox spotted Sale a three-run lead heading into the sixth, with Tyler Flowers hitting a solo home run and Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo registering RBIs on sacrifice flies in consecutive innings. But Oakland quickly responded in the sixth when Jed Lowrie laced a line drive into left, which was misplayed by De Aza and allowed Lowrie and Adam Rosales to reach second and third.
Sale then issued a four-pitch walk to Yoenis Cespedes before serving up the grand slam to Donaldson on a 1-1 offering.
Pitching coach/fill-in manager Don Cooper didn't think Sale was rattled by De Aza's error, and instead chalked up the walk and grand slam to nothing more than a blip on the radar for the left-hander.
"That had nothing to do with it, nothing at all. I didn't sense that at all," Cooper said. "Chris doesn't get rattled. Chris is just trying to make pitches. Stuff happens behind guys from time to time. You can’t get overly concerned with that. You just have to try to make the next pitch and he did try to go make the best pitch, but Donaldson put another good bat on him."
"It sucks," Sale added. "It just shows you how important one pitch can be in a ballgame."
The White Sox had a pair of chances to tie the game after Donaldson's grand slam, but weren't able to come through for completely different reasons.
In the eighth, Flowers singled and De Aza walked to lead off the inning. Alexei Ramirez, though, was unable to get a bunt down, popping his first attempt into Donaldson's glove at third base. A's reliever Ryan Cook dispatched Alex Rios and Adam Dunn to end the threat, with the tying run on second base.
"I just couldn’t get the job done today," Ramirez said. "I just have to come back working hard tomorrow. I have to do it all over again tomorrow."
"Not getting the bunt down, that don't help, giving the other team an out right there," Cooper said. "We would have had the go-ahead run on second base. I like our chances there. But it didn't happen and it's not from lack of effort. That's what's going on now. I didn’t see people not trying, not hustling. It just seems like right now when we're not going that good, anything that can go wrong seems to."
Furthering Cooper's belief was what happened in the bottom of the ninth, when Reddick timed a leap at the right field wall perfectly to take away what would've been a game-tying home run off the bat of Gillaspie.
"There is not really anywhere to point the blame. It’s just the way things are going," a sullen Gillaspie said. "We’re all trying. It’s frustrating. There really aren’t a whole lot of words that can describe how disheartening this is."
Less than two weeks ago, the White Sox polished off a sweep of Miami and moved to .500 at 24-24. Right after reaching that mark, though, the Sox lost eight in a row, and Wednesday's dramatic 16-inning win over Seattle now has been followed by two close losses to the Athletics.
A team that isn't playing its best baseball isn't getting many breaks, either. On Thursday night, Dunn's bid for a walk-off home run died at the wall. Even their lone win since May 27 saw their opponent mount a historic 14th-inning comeback.
With that in mind, it was fitting that one bad inning from their ace cost the White Sox Friday night.
"I’m sure it will turn around eventually," Gillaspie said. "If it doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year."