White Sox eliminated from AL Central race

September 25th, 2022

CHICAGO -- The White Sox officially were eliminated from 2022 American League Central title contention via a 4-1 loss to Detroit on Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field, falling short to Cleveland in a division where they touted as the clear-cut preseason favorite.

But with nine games left and a Wild Card elimination number of three, if the White Sox thought they were unofficially done, an irritated acting manager Miguel Cairo had a different message to deliver after a highly disappointing 0-6 homestand. Of these six setbacks to Cleveland and Detroit, dropping Chicago to 76-77, Sunday’s hit home in the worst way for Cairo.

“Today was the worst one. Today was, that’s not acceptable. That’s not baseball,” Cairo said. “That’s not what the Chicago White Sox are about. It was terrible.”

One point to be made about Sunday’s game is that the White Sox played the series finale without the following regulars: José Abreu, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert and Tim Anderson. Robert was shut down for the season Saturday, Anderson could soon follow, Abreu is at 150 games played and Jiménez needed a break.

Any regular who can play will be playing Tuesday against the Twins at Target Field, according to Cairo. And they will be playing until the end at home against the Twins on Oct. 5.

“So, they better bring some effort. It was kind of embarrassing,” Cairo said. “You saw for six series [since Cairo took over for Tony La Russa], the way you are supposed to play the game, and you saw today it was totally different team.”

Detroit outhit Chicago 11-6 on Sunday to go with a White Sox baserunning miscue and a double play not turned during a three-run Tigers’ eighth against Kendall Graveman. Those baserunning and defensive problems have plagued the White Sox for this entire underachieving campaign.

Dylan Cease, who is a prime AL Cy Young candidate, pitched well again despite not having great fastball command. The right-hander struck out five and walked three over six scoreless innings and 95 pitches, working out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the sixth.

Cease’s ERA dropped to 2.06 in his 16th quality start of the season. He has allowed one earned run or less in 23 of 31 starts in ‘22 and has a strikeout total of 222, ranking second in the AL. Cease should make one more start in San Diego, but added he has plenty left in the tank.

Calling the team’s divisional elimination “very disappointing,” Cease echoed Cairo’s view of the season not being done.

“We still have games left to play, so we got to show up and keep playing.” Cease said. “We got to show up and bring it. It’s still Major League Baseball."

Credit goes to the Guardians (86-67), who didn’t back into this division title with an 18-3 record over their last 21 games. They entered Chicago this past Tuesday leading by four games and after a hard-fought, 11-inning victory featuring a five-run 11th, they clearly sapped the remaining energy or drive from the White Sox.

Cleveland not only swept the White Sox, but then went into Texas and swept the Rangers, meaning the Guardians have almost two weeks to set up their rotation and lineup for their first round playoff series. Many pundits felt Cleveland would finish closer to last than first, with Chicago coming off back-to-back playoff appearances.

What went wrong with the White Sox? Injuries, underperformance and a team never really fitting together and never really quite getting going. As starter Lance Lynn said Wednesday, it seemed as if they were somewhere around six games back all season.

“I think we definitely didn’t play up to our abilities,” Cease said. “I’d have to really take a step back and look at it. I think we all know we had more in the tank.”

Whatever the reason for failure, Cairo won’t tolerate sloppy play caused by lack of execution or lack of effort. He made that point clear minutes after the White Sox fell to 35-43 at home and had their first winless homestand of at least six games since May 19-24, 1989, against Toronto and Baltimore (0-6).

“If you watch the game, that was bad, besides Cease pitched really good and keep us in the game,” Cairo said. “It’s as simple as that. We just have to finish strong, play the right way."