The consensus among White Sox players and coaches this week was that they at least had to win the series against the Twins to stay in the division race.
So now that the Twins have opened up an eight-game lead over the White Sox by taking the first two games of the series – including Wednesday’s 9-3 win at U.S. Cellular Field – is it over?
“In the back of your mind you think, ‘If we lose any game against any team we are going to find ourselves in trouble,’” Omar Vizquel said after the game. “We couldn’t make a move here against the Twins, against the team that is in front of us, and that is the only way to get close to them.”
Even Ozzie Guillen, when asked if the situation is bleak at this point, faced the harsh reality.
“Obviously yes,” he said. “We’re swimming right now against the current and it keeps raining.”
Wednesday’s game was as close to a must-win situation as it can get and the White Sox couldn’t get it done. They left nine men on base and a costly fielding mistake by Gordon Beckham in the fifth inning led to a deficit the Southsiders could not overcome.
With two outs in the inning, Orlando Hudson hit a weak chopper to second that Beckham had to charge. He gloved the ball, but his off-balance throw drifted to the home plate side of first and pulled Konerko off the bag. The play was scored a hit, but it was a play that was there to be made.
The next batter was Joe Mauer, who made the White Sox pay by hitting a three-run home run off starter Gavin Floyd, one of his three hits on the night.
“It was good location, it just didn’t move,” Floyd said about the pitch Mauer hit out. “I think it was just a cement mixer. I wanted to throw a slider there and it just didn’t move.”
The Twins added three in the sixth and three more in the seventh to put the game out of reach. Six of those runs were charged to Floyd, who fell to 10-13 on the year.
With 17 games to go, an eight-game lead will be nearly impossible to overcome, especially considering the White Sox are chasing the hottest team in baseball. After winning 35 of their last 47 games, Minnesota is suddenly one game back of Tampa Bay for the best record in baseball.
The reality is starting to set in for the White Sox, but whether the race is over or not, there are still games to be played.
“We got to continue to play,” Guillen said. “I know it’s going to be tough to accomplish what we want to accomplish, but in the meanwhile, we don’t have any choice.”