SEATTLE -- Since the White Sox beat the Marlins at home on May 26, completing a three-game weekend sweep, they had gone 56 innings without holding another lead.
That ended Monday night with Jeff Keppinger's run-scoring single in the second inning of a series-opening contest with the Mariners at Safeco Field. That also was the only undesirable streak that ended for the White Sox, who lost by a 4-2 margin to the Mariners and fell for the seventh straight time since they reached .500.
For the seventh straight game, the White Sox scored three runs or less. For the seventh straight game, the White Sox did not hit a home run. They have a mere 11 runs scored total in this losing run, and with Seattle aces Felix Hernandez (2.38 ERA) and Hisashi Iwakuma (2.13 ERA) on the mound for the next two games, fortunes will be even tougher for the struggling visitors to change.
"Sometimes there are no answers," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko, who finished 1-for-4 in his return to the lineup after being sidelined for parts of two games with a stiff neck. "All you can do is try and work and, you know, that's it. I mean, there's no easy answer. You just keep grinding away."
John Danks (0-2) pitched well enough to win in his third start after coming off the disabled list, allowing three earned runs over six innings and 104 pitches, while striking out five and walking one. The biggest damage inflicted came with one out in the third of a tie game, when Kyle Seager reached on a bunt single and Kendrys Morales doubled him home.
Veteran designated hitter Raul Ibanez engaged Danks in a 13-pitch at-bat with Morales on second, culminating in his 10th home run that Danks said came off of a cutter. At that point of the battle, Danks admitted to running out of ideas.
"We went hard away, soft away, hard in, soft in," Danks said. "I thought I had him looking in and tried to throw a cutter away, and it was up a little more than I would like. He's a good hitter and did what he was supposed to do. I felt like it was still a halfway decent pitch. I got beat and that's the way it goes."
"He threw everything except the curveball," said Ibanez. "He made some tough pitches. I was pretty much just battling and he was fighting. It was one of those fun battles. That's what the game is all about."
In searching for that silver lining amidst the ever-increasing clouds, White Sox manager Robin Ventura pointed to Danks' performance.
"As far as seeing him pitch in Spring Training, this is the best he's looked as far as command and just coming out of his hand," Ventura said. "It was a good night for him as far as pitching. He had a couple that got him, but other than that I liked the way he was throwing."
"I feel like I have plenty and I feel like I can win us a ballgame if I have to," Danks said. "I feel like every time out the team has a good chance to win."
Not such a good chance, though, when the White Sox simply aren't hitting.
Joe Saunders (4-5) limited the White Sox to five hits over 6 1/3 innings. The White Sox had two hits in the sixth, but Alejandro De Aza's leadoff single was erased by Alexei Ramirez's double-play grounder and Alex Rios was stranded at second after a two-out double when Konerko took a called third strike.
A two-out, two-strike single by Adam Dunn off of Tom Wilhelmsen scored Rios in the ninth and brought the tying run to the plate in Keppinger. But Keppinger flied out to center, and Wilhelmsen picked up save No. 13.
Frustration for the White Sox was visible in Danks' mound demeanor after the run-scoring hits from Morales and Ibanez, joined by disagreements from Konerko and Dunn with home-plate umpire Dale Scott on his given strike zone. It finally boiled over in the seventh when bench coach Mark Parent was ejected by Scott for arguing balls and strikes.
It was the second ejection of his coaching career, allowing Parent to miss yet another White Sox move in the losing direction that ultimately could lead general manager Rick Hahn to move this team in a quasi-rebuilding direction.
"Again, effort and energy and all that stuff has to be there," Ventura said. "We're results-based, so it does get to a point numbers, just how that happens, will make decisions for somebody else."
"Obviously you never want to go on an extended losing streak, and it's not for a lack of hard work or guys caring," Danks said. "It's just not working out. I sure wish I could have been the stopper tonight. We got our leader [Jake Peavy] going tomorrow so we'll see what happens."