The U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard flashed an ominous message in the ninth inning: Next home game -- Opening Day April 1, 2013, Sox vs. Royals.
Nothing could sum up the Chicago White Sox's complete fade in the American League Central Division better, as they’ve gone from three games ahead of the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 17 to three games behind in 13 days. With Sunday’s 6-2 loss to David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays, the Sox are now one Tigers victory or one loss of their own away from playoff elimination.
Sunday was a familiar story for Chicago, as the offense failed again to show up. During their past 13 games the Sox have scored a total of 34 runs (2.5 per game).
“On a frustration level [of] 1 to 10, it’s a 12,” Sox slugger Adam Dunn said.
The Sox’s sudden collapse was compounded by a starting rotation that posted an ERA of 5.88 (22 earned runs in 33 .2 innings) in the last homestand of the season.
Although the premise seems remote at best, the team has no choice but to look for a sports miracle to extend their season. The Sox need to win their last three games in Cleveland while Detroit loses three in a row in Kansas City if they hope to force a one-game playoff in Detroit on Thursday for the division championship.
“We just did not play good enough,” said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who along with several veteran free agents-to-be may have played his last home game in a White Sox uniform. “The effort was there, the work was there, everything was there. We just did not get it done.”
Team captain Paul Konerko summed up the task that lies ahead in the last series of the regular season.
“Let’s just try to win out,” Konerko said. “If nothing else, everyone pledged at the beginning of the year we would give it our all for 162 [games]. I think we have done that through 159. It doesn’t look good as far as the division, because we can’t control the fact Detroit has to lose three. We can control winning our three games, and that was our goal to come out and play [hard] for 162.”