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Loss leaves Sox near end of ‘cruel’ game

Caption
The White Sox's Jake Peavy reacts after being called for a balk against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second inning Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field. The balk call was overruled. At left is first base umpire Chad Fairchild, who did not make the balk call. At center is Adam Dunn. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO – For the past 11⁄2 weeks, as the White Sox watched their division lead evaporate, they said all the right things.

Reality is setting in, however, and they can’t sugarcoat the harsh reality any longer. Losing eight of nine games in the home stretch is terrible for any team, let alone one that is trying to make the playoffs. Now they face the grim reality that time is no longer on their side after losing, 3-2, to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.

“You can’t feel sorry for yourself,” Paul Konerko said. “Sometimes the game is cruel.

“Sometimes what you get out of it is not what you put into it, but you know that going on. We know that, been playing the game a long time. It’s tough. Nothing else to say.”

The Sox (82-74) trail AL Central-leading Detroit by two games with six remaining and still have three games left against the Rays (86-70), who have won eight consecutive games and sit two back in the wild card. After spending 117 days atop the AL Central, the Sox fell at least two games behind for the first time since May 25 when they trailed by 2 1/2 games.

“If you’re not going to score some runs and put yourself ahead, all the little stuff needs to get done and that’s why we’re in the position we’re in and where we’re at,” Konerko said. “We’re only two games out with a little of the season left because we’ve been good all year at that.”

Wasted opportunities have become the Sox’s unwelcome motto during their September slide. They loaded the bases with no outs in back-to-back innings against Rays starter James Shields, but came away with just one run in the fifth and sixth. While those runs helped tie and then take the lead, the offense was one hit away from blowing open the game.

Whether it’s a lack of confidence or pressing in clutch situations, the Sox have failed to capitalize on other teams’ mistakes. They’ve stranded 68 runners on base in their past 10 games, including 10 during Thursday’s loss. Add in the Sox’s failure to execute fundamentals in the eighth – pinch hitter Dewayne Wise failed to lay down the sacrifice bunt and pinch runner Jordan Danks was ruled out after did not retag second base – and their playoff hopes are on the ropes.

“It’s always frustrating. We’re professionals,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “We want to do well. We want to win games and we want to do things that are good. And when you don’t, sometimes you just try too hard.”

Six days are all the Sox have left to try and save their season. Jake Peavy again pitched well with no run support, allowing two runs on four hits in 7 1/3 innings. But the offense floundered against Shields and it doesn’t get much easier the rest of the series. The Sox are scheduled to face Jeremy Hellickson, Mat Moore and Cy Young contender David Price.

“I believe anybody will tell you we need to win out,” Peavy said. “And that starts with winning [today]. You can’t look ahead of yourself. Obviously [this game] hurt, and we understand that, we understand the mathematics and we’re running out of time.”

• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at mmontemurro@shawmedia.com.

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