White Sox drop series, put clinch on hold

September 21st, 2021

DETROIT -- The White Sox clinch of the American League Central will have to wait at least one more day.

Entering Tuesday afternoon’s contest at Comerica Park with a magic number of 2, in a game moved up from a night contest due to the forecast of inclement weather, the White Sox (85-66) dropped a 5-3 decision to the Tigers. The Indians (73-76) hosted the Royals on Tuesday night, and a loss by Cleveland would have sealed the division for Chicago had it defeated Detroit.

Over their last seven games against the Angels, Rangers and Tigers, the White Sox have a 2-5 record. They scored just 11 runs in those five losses.

Chicago’s record stood at 58-37 on July 20, but it has posted a 27-29 mark since that point. In the long run, though, will this slide affect the team once the playoffs begin? The White Sox certainly have one of the most talented clubs in baseball, capable of taking down anyone when they are at the top of their game.

“We’d like to be playing some really good ball come the last week,” said White Sox starter , who finished with a no-decision Tuesday after allowing two runs on 11 hits over five innings with two strikeouts and one walk. “You never know what to expect.

“I’d like to say I’ve seen a lot, but I know I haven’t seen it all. When that time comes, I know we’ll try our best, but I would like to see all three phases put together. This is a weird day, so I’m not too concerned with how we played today. Player safety was top priority for the first couple of innings while it was really, really bad weather.”

Detroit (74-78) once again spotted the White Sox an early lead, only to fight back by scoring three runs off Jace Fry and Aaron Bummer in the seventh. Niko Goodrum delivered a two-out hit to right field to break the deadlock, and Victor Reyes’ two-run single upped the lead to three.

’s eighth-inning single got one run back for the White Sox, who had runners on first and third with two outs. But -- who had a two-hit game, extending his hit streak to 11 -- grounded out against Michael Fulmer. Chicago finished 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men on base.

Fulmer brought the go-ahead run to the plate with two outs in the ninth, but after getting a close call on 3-1 to Leury García, the right-hander struck him out swinging.

“What you do is you look at the run-scoring opportunities -- and we had more than a handful -- how the outs were made, how you could have changed the outcome,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa. “Whether you know more about the pitcher, or you know more about how they're going to pitch you.

“You learn more from getting beat than you learn from winning sometimes. We had a chance to blow that game open, score more runs than we did. And that's actually happened quite a bit lately. We're looking at it. [Hitting coach] Frank [Menechino] and [assistant hitting coach] Howie [Clark] don't settle, and our guys don't settle for it, either."

A division clinch might no longer be a lock in Detroit, with Wednesday’s weather forecast not looking good. That business almost certainly would then be handled in Cleveland, where Chicago needs just one win out of five games.

But labeling the White Sox as a struggling team going into October would be a bit misguided. Due to injuries, they have rarely played with their entire projected Opening Day lineup. La Russa and his staff also are careful with their player and bullpen usage in the midst of 14 games in 13 days.

That stretch is followed by scheduled off-days on Monday and Thursday of next week, which leaves the lingering notion as to how the White Sox will respond to that extended rest after this rough patch.

“We’re going to be starting in the [Division Series], we’re going to have two off-days and then three days off before our first game,” Keuchel said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Hey, flip a coin. What’s going to happen? Are we going to come out really strong like we know we can or are we going to come out and not put all three phases of the game together?’ I don’t know.”

“The winning team gets that two-out hit, the losing team gets the third out, which is what we are today,” La Russa said. “We had the same chances, and we didn’t come through.”