What a difference a day makes, especially when those days include a division lead doubling and halving itself back-and-forth at the drop of a hat. In this case, all the optimism forged by the Sox dragging themselves within one good day of the Tigers was snuffed out very, very emphatically.
While the Tigers clinged to a 6-4 win over Minnesota, the Rays unleashed a 10-4 hammering on the South side that wasn't as close as the score. Sale was rocked and kicked out mid-way through the 4th inning, whereas his counterpart Matt Moore didn't allow a baserunner until the 5th.
Most of the lively 26,000 in attendance didn't stick around to see Orlando Hudson hit a pinch-hit, opposite-field grand slam in the 8th inning, which set up the garish shot of Hudson greeting Rey Olmedo, Dan Johnson, and Jordan Danks at home plate.
Robin Ventura pulled every starter he could get his hands on once the deficit hit 10-0, setting up a bizarre scene where that squad of misfits actually rallied. The sarcastic cheers that followed were more befitting of playing out the string than a team still alive in the playoff chase.
That type of assessment of the U.S. Cellular Field atmosphere has been parroted by both attendance-shamers in the media and agenda-free observers throughout the week. It reflects not just crowd reaction, but that the last three Sox losses have been so thorough and deflating, that they have each had a level of finality to them. Such is the nature of losing five games in the standings in 11 days.
The biggest weapon for securing the dominant pitching outing that this offense apparently needs down the stretch is holstered. Chris Sale has likely pitched his last start of the season, and it was a finale unworthy of the work that preceded it. He's done his best to work around flagging velocity in the 2nd half, to the point where Joe Maddon posited that Sale "Doesn't like his fastball", but it's brought continually diminishing results. Sale's ERA crept up above 3.00 for the first time since May 12th, and there it will stay.
The left-hander is done for the foreseeable future, so there's room for him to uncoil every bit of self-flagellation he can muster.
"Gave up hits at the wrong times and they capitalized on my mistakes. I just didn't do anything to help myself or help the team.
I was terrible. I was a disgrace.”
Those who have to continue have no choice but to give bleary-eyed commitments to winning out.
"We have to win every game now and hope that Detroit loses a couple. That's what has to happen." said Alex Rios, who took a big sigh in-between the two sentences.
Unlike when Jake Peavy stated a need to win out after Thursday's loss, there not much exaggeration to Rios' claims. Anything less would require Detroit to finish 1-3 against the dregs of the division.
There's already some eyeing the future going on, if only for the chance at improvement that it offers.
Alexei Ramirez pledged to work harder in the off-season to reverse course from the worst offensive season of his career.
"It's just something that I'm definitely, I feel like I'm a little bit off at the plate. When the offseason comes up, all I'm going to do is work a lot harder to get back what I've had."
Whereas Fox's Ken Rosenthal reported that Adam Dunn sees the toned-down approach he had to take with his oblique injury as a path to increased contact next year.
He didn’t necessarily hit home runs, but he hit the ball hard, so Dunn plans to study before-and-after videotape this offseason and “fine-tune” his approach.
“There’s something there. I’m going to find it,” he said. “And when I do, we’ve got action.”
It's only natural to long for the tools necessary to arrest the offensive slide that's claiming the season as its victim. But these statements, in combination with multiple days this week where huge, vital games have ended with scattered booing and emptied-out stands, can't help but lend a defeated air to all things White Sox.
There's no rush to write the post-mortem now, since there will be entirely too much time to reflect on what went wrong and wonder what the next step is. But 10.7% playoffs odds don't typically set the city aflame.