Endangered White Sox drop fifth straight

Endangered White Sox drop fifth straight

Endangered White Sox drop fifth straight
ANAHEIM -- In the stretch of just seven sixth-inning pitches, the White Sox watched Sunday's scoreless affair with the Angels turn into what would eventually become a 4-1 Halos victory before 36,546 at Angel Stadium.

Gavin Floyd, just three starts removed from the 15-day disabled list due to a right elbow flexor strain, was going pitch for pitch with prime American League Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver. Then, Floyd walked AL Most Valuable Player candidate Mike Trout on a 3-2 cutter with one out, and the game changed in a near instant.

The Angels put four straight on base during that four-run uprising, and their offensive output was enough to complete a weekend sweep for manager Mike Scioscia's crew. This setback sent the visiting AL Central leaders to their fifth straight loss, which ties a season-worst skid for the White Sox (81-71).

Even with these five straight defeats to finish off a 4-5 road trip, the White Sox will return to Chicago with a one-game lead the Tigers, who lost both games of their Sunday doubleheader against the Twins in Detroit. So it's 10 games to the finish, winner take all in the division.

"It's a bad weekend, but we are fine," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Again, it doesn't mean we are out of anything. We'll just continue playing. It's not fun losing, but we still have a chance to take care of it ourselves."

"Hopefully it will get better tomorrow," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, referring to the team returning to U.S. Cellular Field. "But it doesn't matter where you play. If you don't play well, it doesn't work. We just have to find a way to play better."

Scott Diamond's first quality start in a month and 10 straight runs scored by the Twins produced a 10-4 Tigers loss in the Sunday afternoon portion of the Comerica Park split-doubleheader, giving the White Sox a chance to re-take control of the AL Central. They even opened strong against Weaver, who improved to 19-4 by tossing 6 1/3 innings of one-run baseball, but the South Siders missed out on a prime chance to score in the first inning.

Kevin Youkilis' single, Adam Dunn's double and a walk by Paul Konerko loaded the bases with one out. Alex Rios battled Weaver through an 11-pitch at-bat, but Weaver won out by fanning Rios with a 3-2 changeup after Rios fouled off five straight. Pierzynski grounded out to short to end the threat.

"They made me work there in the first, taking some pitches and being patient," said Weaver, who struck out four and retired 12 straight at one point. "But I was able to make a pitch there to Pierzynski to get the ground ball. It could've been a lot worse, so it was nice to get out of that first inning unscathed."

"We had a chance in the first. He was a little bit wild," Pierzynski said. "Rios had a great at-bat. Just couldn't get a hit. I hit a ball hard right at the shortstop. If it's five feet one way or the other, we are up, 2-0, and flying high. That's what good pitchers do."

Floyd (10-11) was brilliant through the first five innings, only allowing one runner to reach second base via Howie Kendrick's ground-rule double in the fifth. But Floyd's walk to Trout changed the game's complexion.

Torii Hunter hit the next pitch to left, with Trout on the move, to put runners on first and third. Albert Pujols launched the following offering into the left-field corner for a two-run double, giving him 100 RBIs or more an 11th time in 12 seasons. And Kendrys Morales completed the scoring by driving out his 22nd homer to right-center on a 2-1 pitch.

That fateful sixth was the final frame for Floyd, who struck out eight, including the first four outs recorded, and walked just one among his 84 pitches.

"I tried to execute pitches like I had been doing the past five innings and I think I just missed location," Floyd said. "They were being aggressive early and they happened to get hits. Just hoping to get quick outs and doing the same thing I had been doing."

Pierzynski scored the White Sox run in the seventh when he opened the frame with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch and came home on Dayan Viciedo's sacrifice fly to left, ending Weaver's day. The White Sox finished 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, leaving them 3-for-42 in their last six games in that department.

Losing to strong starting pitching such as Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana is not exactly a strike against the White Sox. But close isn't good enough at this point of the season.

"Moral victories, they don't matter at this point," Pierzynski said. "The bottom line is we have to win games."

With a division lead never going above three games since July 17, the White Sox have been playing playoff baseball for more than two months. They simply hope a little home cooking helps them finish what they started.

"Right now, it's 'Let's get out of here, get home and a change of scenery can't do us any worse,'" Konerko said. "Everyone is playing hard and going about it the right way and there's nothing wrong except the lack of results and the wins.

"We've just got to keep battling and keep fighting. Things go in cycles. Hopefully there's a cycle that's going to turn and it's going to  be good for us."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.