The White Sox playoff hopes are just a notion these days, but a notion everyone would like to keep alive into next week. Games in Cleveland don't need to be made anymore lifeless than they are naturally.
But Jose Quintana--the little soft-tossing control artist that could--was unable to keep the illusion going past the first batter of the game. He allowed a leadoff triple to Desmond Jennings, then hung something resembling a slider that B.J. Upton crushed to left field to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 2-0 lead.
From there on, the game became a challenge of 'Rally from behind against David Price'. This is an unreasonable challenge.
But the Sox were not completely helpless in this regard. Down 3-0 in the 4th after another home run from the Rays, Kevin Youkilis, Paul Konerko, and Alex Rios strung singles together to push a run across--Rios even went the other way on a sinking changeup! It was gorgeous.
Better yet, A.J. Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo kept the line moving. After a wretched strikeout in his previous at-bat, Pierzynski took the umpteenth inside fastball off the elbow to load the bases, and Viciedo lifted a sac fly to the center field wall to plate one more. It wasn't outstanding, but this was a dead as dirt offense against David Price--there were not great expectations.
The rookie pitching staff simply did not measure up. Quintana only stayed around in the 5th inning long enough to allow a leadoff double to Upton. Nate Jones came on in relief, and promptly issued a walk (Sox pitching would allow seven on the day), and an RBI double to Evan Longoria. A sacrifice fly would subsequently end Jones' 21 game scoreless streak. With that flourish, all the runs the Sox scored were given back in the very next half inning.
There would not be another rally.
Rays 6, White Sox 2
Jose Quintana - 4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 85 pitches - He doesn't have much stuff, so he needs precision. Jose did not have precision.
Paul Konerko - 2 for 3, R - The power's not there, but how about the wheels? Ran from 1st to 3rd on a single, scored on a sac fly. Next year I'm calling 25 stolen bases for Konerko...followed by his legs being amputated.
Alex Rios - 1 for 3, RBI, BB - That's a mighty fine season, there, Alex. Too bad about never making the playoffs.
Brett Myers - 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 3 K - Some nice post-mortem relief work.
BJ Upton - 3 for 5, 2 HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R - He's doing pretty well of recent.
The Sox were trailing five minutes into this game and never so much as tied it, so the game never really turned so much as it got into a car and drove directly to its intended destination.
Nate Jones came on with a runner on 2nd and no outs in the 5th, down 3-2. After walking Ben Zobrist, hurled a center-cut fastball to Longoria on a 1-2 count. Longoria did not miss the center-cut fastball, 97 mph or not.
Things Would Be Different If...
...Not for a brutal, brutal mismatch in starting pitching. Not even in the salad days of late May, when Paul Konerko was a God, Adam Dunn was his old self, and Dayan Viciedo was a major leaguer would I put great confidence in overcoming David Price. And this is September.
Everyone talks about 'daggers', or a 'final blow'. The White Sox have proven that if you just get stabbed once, you don't play very well for the next two weeks.
Team Record: 83-76, Really, really close to being dead.