White Sox succumb to O's in extra innings
Danks strong; Pena squelches one rally but allows walk-off
BALTIMORE -- The cup-is-half-full crowd will look at the White Sox 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards on Friday night as simply a minor bump in the road to the playoffs.
After all, the Indians walked off on the Twins in Cleveland, keeping the American League Central lead at 1 1/2 games for the White Sox (62-47). The proverbial no harm, no foul.
As for those from the White Sox cup-is-half-empty sector, -- who make their voices heard with every misstep -- well, this opener of a four-game set represents a golden opportunity missed to gain ground while playing against the worst team in baseball.
"We obviously would have liked to be on the other side of this," said White Sox starting pitcher John Danks of the tough setback. "It was one of those games where you felt like any mistake could be the ballgame."
"Great pitching, both sides," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, whose offense managed only Gordon Beckham's solo home run in the third off Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen as its sum total of production. "They pitched the ball very well. We couldn't get anything done all night long, I mean no excitement."
Aside from Beckham's sixth blast of the season, just about the only other viable scoring threat came in the seventh following Mark Kotsay's one-out triple. With a double in the previous at-bat, Kotsay knocked out four extra-base hits in the span of five trips to the plate.
Alexei Ramirez was charged with bringing Kotsay home, but he squibbed a ball to first baseman Ty Wigginton. Kotsay got a slow break off third, and Wigginton made a perfect strike on the run to catcher Matt Wieters to nail Kotsay. After the loss, Guillen said he wasn't upset with Kotsay's aggressiveness.
"In that situation, when you have a ball that's cued, your instincts just take over and you think you can make it," Kotsay said. "Obviously, he made a good barehanded play and the throw was on target, so you tip your cap to him."
"When he saw that little roller out there, he wanted to take a chance," said Guillen of Kotsay. "I don't mind either way."
Danks gave the Orioles (36-73) one true chance to score, and that opportunity came when Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Wigginton delivered back-to-back-to-back singles in the first. The southpaw settled down to give up just six hits and the one run over seven innings, striking out five and not issuing a walk.
While Danks deserved to win, Chris Sale's Major League debut could have and probably should have ended in defeat. The slender 21-year-old White Sox left-hander faced two batters and didn't retire either one, entering in the eighth with the game tied at 1.
So, the good news was that Sale became the first White Sox player to make his debut in the same year he was drafted since Alex Fernandez in 1990. The bad news is Sale has yet to pitch even one-third of an official inning.
Roberts walked on four pitches and Markakis singled off Sale to start the frame, before Tony Pena replaced him. A wild pitch moved up both runners with one out, and after Wigginton lined out to third and Luke Scott was intentionally walked, Adam Jones popped out for the second out. Corey Patterson pinch-hit for Julio Lugo and worked the count full before Pena struck out Patterson with a changeup.
And what was Pena's reward for pitching out of this Sale-induced jam? Pena (3-2) suffered the loss when Jones delivered a game-winning single to score Markakis with two outs in the 10th. Markakis had raced to third on Scott's two-out single to center one batter earlier.
"Redemption. That's what I based the at-bat on," Jones said. "He got away with one [in the eighth], but he didn't get away with it twice."
Sale, meanwhile, capped off his Major League debut with a fitting one-word description.
"Bad," said Sale, sitting in front of his locker after the loss. "I just went out there, and I was hyped up. I wanted to do well, but I didn't have any feel. I just didn't show up.
"That's pretty much it. I walked a guy, made a bad pitch, 0-2. You can't do that here. You are not going to get results doing that ever."
Friday's results could have been a bit more troublesome for the White Sox if Minnesota (61-49) had completed a rally from 4-0 and 5-1 deficits. Matt LaPorta's home run off Matt Guerrier in the bottom of the ninth squelched those ideas.
Probably the most fitting moment of the night for the White Sox came in the seventh, with A.J. Pierzynski at the plate, after Kotsay was thrown out at home. Pierzynski smashed a fastball to right, which looked like extra bases to score Ramirez from first, at the worst, and possibly Pierzynski's seventh home run.
Instead, Markakis ran down the ball near the wall. Pierzynski rounded first and slammed his helmet to the ground, with the force of the White Sox frustration rolling all the way near the second-base bag.
"Any team can beat you on any given night," Danks said. "They have a great lineup on paper. We are hoping to win this series and get on a little roll before we go home and play the Twins and Tigers."
"You want to be competitive in these games to give yourself a chance to win," Kotsay said. "Our pitchers did that. We fell short offensively tonight, but it was a well-played, well-pitched game and we were on the losing end of it. You have to deal with it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.