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White Sox all but counted out of AL Central race

Published: Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 11:22 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 11:22 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
The White Sox’s A. J. Pierzynski reacts as he wipes his face in the dugout after striking out Sunday during the ninth inning of the Sox’s 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at U.S. Cellular Field.

CHICAGO – The White Sox are left searching for positives to build on with their playoff hopes resting on a baseball miracle.

Rays ace and Cy Young challenger David Price shut down the Sox’s offense despite ample opportunities, a familiar scenario the past two weeks, to pick up his 20th victory in Tampa Bay’s 6-2 win. The Sox (83-76) have lost 10 of their past 12 games and their postseason dreams have been reduced to wishful thoughts.

A Tigers win in Minnesota dropped the Sox three games in back of Detroit with only three games left.

“Whatever our record is right now, whatever happened out there [Sunday], whatever happened four days ago, when I say exactly the same all year, this team has stayed exactly the same all year,” first baseman Paul Konerko said. “If you like what we were doing two months or one month ago or five months ago, I can tell you honestly that we put the same exact approach in preparation into our play. Anybody who covers this team knows that.”

The Sox must sweep the Indians in Cleveland while the Royals must sweep three from Detroit. That’s not likely to happen, and the Sox know that.

“When we pitch, we haven’t hit,” third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. “When we hit, we haven’t pitched. It’s how baseball works sometimes. We just haven’t had it.

“It’s part of the game. It [stinks]. It [stinks] collectively that we didn’t play as well as we could have. It’s an unfortunate situation.”

The Sox will have plenty of time to reflect when they’re sitting home this month, contemplating what went wrong during the final two weeks of the season. It won’t take long to figure out the answer. Their starting pitchers posted a collective 5.88 ERA and threw five innings or fewer in five of their last seven starts during their final homestand. The result: A paltry 2-5 record that killed their playoff chances.

“It’s frustrating when you don’t get the results you want, wins-wise,” Konerko said. “Like I said a couple of days ago, when you are winning a bunch of games in May or June, you don’t sit around and say ‘Why us?’ then. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you as a player or as a team. You just go out and keep grinding.”

Rookie left-hander Jose Quintana (6-6) continued the bad trend by the starters, lasting only four-plus innings against the Rays (88-71). Quitana allowed four runs and put the South Siders in a tough spot when he served up a two-run homer to the game’s second hitter, B.J. Upton.

Quintana joined Sale in reaching a career high in innings pitched, finishing with 22 starts and 136 1/3 innings. He didn’t rule out arm fatigue, noting he “possibly” felt the effect Sunday. That’s where the excuses stopped.

“It’s something that does feel a little tired in a sense but not to the point where it was going to stop me from doing what I needed to do,” Quintana said through a translator. “I just didn’t execute the pitches I needed to do. I think that was the biggest thing.”

On fan appreciation day at U.S. Cellular Field, the Sox didn’t exactly honor them with their on-field play. But the Sox drew 26,831 for the home finale to bring their season total to 1,965,955. They are one of seven big league teams to not reach the 2 million home attendance mark. They drew fewer than 2 million fans for the first time since 2004.

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

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