The tragic number is one for the White Sox.
The best the team can hope for after Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit’s 2-1 victory over Minnesota is to meet the Tigers in Detroit Thursday for a tiebreaker game. But they will have to win all three games in Cleveland and the Tigers lose all three in Kansas City for that to happen.
“We’re still in the fight, so we just keep playing,” team captain Paul Konerko said. “We’re still in the season now. But if it doesn’t go our way, there will be time to reflect then.”
Konerko has called the last two weeks “frustrating,” the Sox holding a three game lead on Sept. 17 only to lose 10 of their last 12 games. They have lost eight of their last 10 series of three or more games–hardly the formula for a playoff team.
But Konerko said there would be no regrets about one aspect of this season if it ends without the American League Central title.
“There’s a little bit of peace knowing we always prepared the same way every day,” he said of the team’s approach through the year. “It’s frustrating from the standpoint of knowing how this team has prepared the same for every game, and it comes down to the stretch and things don’t go the same. There’s no explanation for it. Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be.”
The “approach” had everything to do with first year manager Robin Ventura. But Ventura admitted there were “little things” that happened over the last two weeks that prevented big things from happening for the Sox.
“You’d like to get a big hit with guys on,” he said. “The big hit hasn’t been there. You don’t seem to win as much without them.
“You let [opponents] back into a game–there’s a lot that goes into a [bad] stretch like this.
“But you continue to play. That’s something we’ve done all year.”
While the Sox cling to the thinnest of hopes, so, too, do the Rays, who also could be within a game of elimination despite winning 10 of their last 11.
They trail the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics for the last wild card spot, though the entire AL playoff picture still remains muddled.
“I believe it’s going to come for us,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to win to take care of our business, but from my perspective, if you give in to thinking you need help [from other teams losing] and the odds are against you, it’s not going to happen.”
What the Rays got Sunday in addition to another day of life in the playoff race was the franchise’s first 20-game winner in David Price (20-5).
At 27, he is the youngest 20-game winner in the AL since 2004 when Johan Santana was 24 when he won 20 with the Twins.
“It’s wonderful for David and wonderful for the organization,” Maddon said. “Our DNA is about pitching and defense. I like to believe we’ll have more 20 game winners in our future. I think it’s still a bench mark for a starter.”