Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener

Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener
September 15, 2010, 3:10 am
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Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
Updated 12:18 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen spent Monday dancing, gladhanding, and otherwise earning thousands of dollars for his charity. Judging by his vocal rasp on Tuesday, he was jigging late into the night, spinning through one of his favorite days all summer.

But one night later, with the bane of Guillens existence in town to begin a three-game visit, the manager watched his troops suffer yet another fall-from-ahead loss to the Minnesota Twins. The 9-3 setback pushed Minnesota seven games up with 18 games remaining, and little short of a rampant case of vertigo speeding through the Target Field clubhouse will stand in the way of a second straight division title for the Twins.

Losing is tough to swallow every timeyou go as hard as you can go but sometimes you come up empty, White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. I wish we were in first, but I dont feel like weve given them anything, theyve just taken it. Theres some peace with that. Sometimes you just get beat.

The manner of victory was anything but peaceful, however.

As per norm, the Piranhas drew first blood with a Delmon Young solo shot to lead off the fifth, chased by a two-out single from Denard Span, scoring J.J. Hardy. Cutting against recent form that being a 6-21 post All-Star break record vs. Minnesota since 2008 the White Sox came right back, posting two runs in the bottom half on an Alexei Ramirez single.

In the sixth, the White Sox pushed ahead 3-2 in typically inefficient form, A.J. Pierzynski turning a gift-wrapped, bases-loaded, no-out opportunity into a run-scoring double-play.

A couple times we had men on third base or bases loaded, no outs or one out, bases loaded, we score only one run, Guillen said. That was the difference in the game. We got a lot of opportunities and good chances, but we couldnt get the big hit.

Sometimes you have a runner at third base with no outs and youre not going to bring him in, sometimes hes going to be on first base with two outs and you bring him in, said designated hitter Manny Ramirez, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and five left on base. Thats part of the game.

Turning such potential bounties upside down into frowns was certain to turn tragic, and sure as soft serve, Minnesota stormed back with two in the top of the seventh, as Guillens favorite new Piranha, Danny Valencia, singled in a run and then scored one batter later, when Hardy doubled high off the wall in left-center.

The Chisox had their own chance to counterpunch in the seventh, loading the bases on singles by Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre and a walk to Alex Rios. But with the sacks packed and just one out, Konerko and Manny Ramirez were whiffed by Jesse Crain.

Im swinging the bat great and I did everything I wanted to do in the at-bat, Konerko said. Crain beat me. I can live with that. Thats the way it is.

Not content with a 5-3 lead, the Twins proceeded to slap a wicked little critta of a crooked number up on the board in the eighth, beginning with a run-scoring double from Jason Kubel, chased by J.J. Putzs walk to Valencia forcing in a run, and trumped altogether by a three-run error-ruled-double off the glove of Rios.

Chicago starter John Danks wasnt his sharpest, logging seven innings and giving up nine hits and four earned runs. Ultimately he paid for the effort by getting slapped with his 11th loss of the season.

I felt like I had enough stuff to get us a better result, said the self-critical southpaw. Give the Twins credit, theyre playing well right now. But I had plenty of stuff to give a better effort, and I let us down.

Twins southpaw Francisco Liriano wasnt sharp, but he pitched well enough to improve to 14-7, scattering six hits and three earned runs over six innings.

With futility vs. the Twins continuing to reign, to say there is urgency pulsing in the White Sox skipper is an understatement.

I dont know if the playoffs are impossible, but its going to be tough, Guillen said. Everybody is fighting right now, today we just came up short. We all know how important the next two games are. Hopefully well play better tomorrow than we did today and we win the next two games. Theyre going to be very big for us, huge.

The improbable and fuzzy math that equates to a White Sox division title was a topic of discussion in the clubhouse as well.

The White Sox have to win not only the next two, Ramirez calculated, but we have to win every game.

Were through the wall right now, Konerko said with regard to Chicago having its back against the wall. Before the series, you know coming back is tough and that you have to probably sweep. But now you just continue to play hard. You keep battling until they tell you that you cant battle any more. When the uniform goes on, you give it everything you got, whether youre 20 games out or seven.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.