DETROIT -- Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was understandably frustrated as any manager would be who believed his team was getting pressured on two sides.
To Guillen's way of thinking, his team was getting squeezed by plate umpire Dan Iassogna on Tuesday night at Comerica Park. And from any vantage point, the defending World Series champions were getting pushed farther back in the American League Central race after Detroit's Kenny Rogers and Fernando Rodney teamed up for a five-hit shutout in the Tigers' 4-0 victory.
Guillen had praise for Rogers and the Tigers, who clinched their first non-losing season since 1993 with the victory, but he had something else for Iassogna after the umpire ejected Guillen following a second strike pitch to White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe in the second inning. That questionable strike, which provoked a two-minute argument, was the last straw after a few other Iassogna calls went against the White Sox.
Guillen was particularly peeved about a call on a pitch to Paul Konerko after the Sox slugger came up with two on and one out in the first before grounding into a double play. Guillen and the Sox were also vocal after Chicago starter Mark Buehrle didn't get the same calls in the first inning.
"If I say what I want to say, I'll get suspended for 20 years," Guillen said. "That pitch to Konerko was embarrassing. To eject the manager in the second inning of the game you've got to look yourself in the mirror."
Guillen said he went out to "explain" himself and asked Iassogna to "let them compete."
"I've got to go out and protect my players, I didn't like the way he was calling strikes and balls," Guillen said. "Only thing I can do is go out there and protect my players. That's all I can do. That's all any manager can do."
Guillen also believed Buehrle wasn't receiving the same calls as Rogers.
"If you want to do that, do it both sides, I can live with that," Guillen said. "Let them compete. You say, 'Let them compete,' and you get kicked out of the game. I don't know what to say."
Iassogna, whose interpretation of the strike zone has generated numerous unsolicited critiques -- and subsequent ejections -- most recently from Colorado manager Clint Hurdle, Houston's Phil Garner and now Guillen, appeared to have done the Tigers a favor by running the White Sox manager, because from that point on, this one was all Detroit.
The crafty Rogers (13-6) correctly identified the parameters of Iassogna's strike zone and painted a frame around it with an assortment of fastballs and offspeed pitches. The White Sox had two hits in the same inning just once against Rogers and only twice were they able to advance a runner as far as third base against the veteran lefty.
This was vintage Kenny Rogers: Ahead in the count, lots of ground balls, only one walk and no big innings. He left after seven shutout innings, having given up just four hits and further strengthening the case for Rogers as the shrewdest free agent signing of the offseason (a two-year deal worth $16 million).
Even if Guillen had a legitimate beef about Iassogna, Buehrle's effort clearly didn't measure up to Rogers' work of art.
The Sox lefty simply didn't have that kind of control and too often found much of the plate, leading to six Tigers hits and seven baserunners in the first three innings. It was just the kind of beginning to get the sellout crowd into the game in a vocal way. By the third, the Tigers led, 3-0, and the White Sox were continually frustrated in their attempts to get something going offensively against Rogers.
Even the unflappable Jim Thome cast a brief glance Iassogna's way after one borderline strike call in the fourth. Thome, who argues with umpires about as often as Guillen doesn't have an opinion, grounded out to second.
For the White Sox, it would be that kind of a frustrating evening. They have now lost three in a row but remain a half-game ahead of Minnesota in the Wild Card standings.
"They outplayed us," Guillen said. "Kenny threw the ball outstanding, like he did in Chicago."
On the rare occasion when the Sox offense generated a spark of hope, the Tigers quickly extinguished the potential rally, like in the seventh when former Sox outfielder and current Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez made a diving catch on Uribe's sinking fly ball to right. The Sox have been outscored 11-1 in the series.
"I hope this team isn't going through the motions right now, seems like we were a little flat," Guillen said. "I hope I'm wrong."
The Sox came here with high hopes but now must face the hard math.
Detroit reduced its magic number to clinch the division to 30. Chicago trails the Tigers by 7 1/2 games, meaning that the best the Sox can hope for is to leave Comerica Park the same as they arrived, no better than 5 1/2 games back and the Sox would have to win the final two games of the series to accomplish that.
Should the Tigers play only .444 ball the rest of the way (16-20), the White Sox would have to play at a .649 clip (24-13) just to tie Detroit. If the Tigers are a .500 team the rest of the way the White Sox would have to win 26 of 37 to force a tie.
There's still the Wild Card of course. And that option might be the only thing the White Sox can take solace from after this one.
"My worry right now is not what we lost, it's how we wake up tomorrow and figure out this mess," Guillen said.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.