CHICAGO -- Before leaving the White Sox dugout to begin his two-game suspension, manager Ozzie Guillen suggested that maybe his struggling team would play better without him around. Didn't happen.
With bench coach Joey Cora running the team in Guillen's stead, the White Sox allowed four unearned runs in a five-run seventh on Friday, losing to the Orioles, 10-4, and extending the hard luck of starter John Danks. The loss was Chicago's third straight overall, 13th in 16 games and fifth straight at U.S. Cellular Field.
"We started good and had the lead and we didn't hold it," said Cora. "We didn't deserve to win, it's that simple. They did everything better than us. The first two innings were good. After that, we didn't play good. We didn't deserve to win."
The White Sox had struggled to score runs over the past three weeks, averaging 2.4 runs over their 17 games entering Friday. Danks has been one of the chief victims of the slump, as Chicago scored no more than one run in three of his first five starts. On Friday, Danks got a little more support, but he didn't pitch as well.
"This is frustrating," said Danks. "There is no other word for it. We're all putting the work in. There is really no reason why it's not going our way. We're way too talented. We're working hard and it's just frustrating."
Early on, it looked like it was going to be different for Danks when he started fast and, more importantly, the White Sox scored three runs in the second inning off Orioles starter Jake Arrieta.
"It kind of worked backwards," said Danks. "I was struggling to feel good early in the game. I was just kind of feeling my way through the first couple of innings. The last three or four innings, I felt great, like I could throw the ball 100 miles per hour."
Adam Dunn, who entered the game hitting .130 (7-for-54) in 15 games since returning from an appendectomy, walked to start the rally. A.J. Pierzynski then rifled a 2-0 Arrieta sinker 394 feet to right-center field, putting the White Sox up, 2-0. Mark Teahen doubled with one out and scored on a two-out single by Juan Pierre. Just like that, the White Sox had surpassed their 17-game average.
Unfortunately for Danks, that was all the support the White Sox gave him for the next three-plus innings. Arrieta recovered to set down the side in the third and fourth, and Paul Konerko flied out to the warning track with the bases loaded to end the fifth. Arrieta was replaced by reliever Clay Rapada to start the sixth.
Ill fortune struck Danks in the sixth, though it was bad luck mostly of his own making. Danks retired the Orioles in order -- almost. Danks got Mark Reynolds with what should have been an inning-ending strikeout, but the pitch skipped past Pierzynski, and Reynolds was safe at first.
"I threw the pitch I wanted to Reynolds," Danks said. "It was kind of a fluky bounce the way it bounced away. If I get the opportunity to do the same thing tomorrow, I'm going to do the same thing. A.J. is going to knock it down. That's the first time he hasn't knocked a ball down for me."
That kept things alive for Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who launched Danks' 3-0 fastball into the center-field bleachers, putting Baltimore up, 5-3.
"Wieters hit ball four out of the ballpark," said Danks. "He's a big guy and he put a pretty good swing on a pitch he probably shouldn't have hit out of the ballpark. ... It [stinks] right now. Hopefully, May will be better for us."
Wieters didn't argue with Danks' assessment.
"It's a tough guy on the mound," said Wieters. "It may be your best chance to get a fastball, so you're just looking to get something straight. I got a fastball that was right near the plate, and I was able to put a good swing on it. I probably should have taken it. But I was just able to put the barrel on the ball and it took off."
Brent Lillibridge got one of the runs back with a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth, but Danks was done for the night after throwing 107 pitches over six innings. He allowed a season-high five runs on eight hits, striking out three. When Jesse Crain took the mound in Danks' place to start the seventh, the best he could hope for was a no-decision.
"If we go like this too much longer, it's not early," said Danks. "That's just a fact. There is plenty of time to get back into it. We saw last year, you have to battle just to get back into it and it takes a toll. We're going to go out and try to win every game, we know that. But we need to turn it around quick."
The White Sox fell to 10-17 on the season and trail the division-leading Indians by eight games. Last season, the White Sox slumbered in the early going as well, falling as many as nine games under .500, then went on a 25-5 tear that pushed them into contention in the American League Central. Lillibridge was called up from the Minors just before last year's hot streak.
"This happened last year," Lillibridge said. "When I got here last year, we were pretty down, but we caught fire quick, and it was awesome.
"It just takes one game, maybe two games in a row. It's not going to be easy. We're not going to come in and blow someone out, it's just not going to happen that way. If it does, great, otherwise we're going to have to go in and win a one-run game and do everything you need to do to win a baseball game."
The loss made Chicago a perfectly-imperfect six for six, losing all of Danks' outings. His fate was sealed when the White Sox gift-wrapped a five-run Orioles seventh.
Crain walked a pair, but still would have escaped unscathed had Alexei Ramirez not bobbled an Adam Jones grounder to load the bases and keep the inning alive. That started the merry-go-round for the Orioles, who got a run-scoring walk from Reynolds and two-run doubles from Wieters and Brian Roberts. Crain and Chris Sale combined to walk five batters in the inning. The pair of doubles were Baltimore's only two hits in the five-run rally.
"Every time we make a mistake, the other team takes advantage of it big time," said Cora. "It's been collective. Not only one guy, but the whole team and the coaching staff have been messing up."
After Lillibridge's home run, the Baltimore bullpen retired nine straight White Sox batters before Teahen walked with two outs in the ninth.
Before the fateful seventh, the Orioles chipped away at Danks who, despite starting the night with a sparkling 3.27 ERA, was still searching for that elusive first win. After he retired the first six Orioles batters, four singles in the third inning plated two runs to cut the White Sox advantage to 3-2. Roberts and Derrek Lee had the run-scoring knocks for Baltimore."We have earned where we are at," said Cora. "It is what it is. Whatever our record is, we have earned it, to be where we are at. Hopefully tomorrow we'll play better and start winning some ballgames."
Bradford Doolittle is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.