ANAHEIM -- The official postseason elimination number for the White Sox didn't reach zero until Thursday night, when the Rays took care of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
That victory knocked the White Sox out of American League Wild Card contention, after they were dropped from the AL Central race by the Twins on Tuesday night. The team is now left to play out the final week's worth of games, while thinking about a season with more peaks and valleys than a good roller coaster.
"It's very positive in one way, because I think the great thing about this season, and I keep saying that, is I think our players were unbelievable, fun, they played the way they should play," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "They played very hard.
"Maybe I saw one or two games [where] the team wasn't there. Besides that, they handled it very well. All that stuff around them, they kept battling. I think that's what hurt the most, when you battle all the way through it and you're there and you fall back or somebody passed you. That really hurts the most."
Battles for the White Sox had to start early, considering they stood at 24-33 with a 9 1/2-game division deficit facing them on June 8. General manager Ken Williams had talked about making personnel changes, when the White Sox suddenly played through a complete reversal of fortune and won 28 of their next 36 games.
At that point, on July 20, their AL Central lead stood at 3 1/2 games. Thanks to Minnesota's unstoppable second-half run and the White Sox dropping 12 of 14 with the season on the line in September, that lead would not hold up.
"We ran out of gas," said reliever J.J. Putz of the White Sox struggles down the stretch. "We were on such a tear. Our starters were going so deep. But it was everything: We just physically and mentally ran out of gas. We probably peaked early but we had to peak when we did (to stay alive)."
"Mentally, we might have," said Guillen of his team running out of gas. "Our games were must-win games every game, and that's not easy to handle. Physically, they were fine. But if somebody told me they're not [mentally tired], they're lying. They have to be. They're human beings. It goes through your mind."
The 2011 version of the White Sox could look decidedly different, with free-agent decisions to be made on important parts such as Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Putz and Freddy Garcia. Meanwhile, the last few games are about pride for all involved.
There will be no playoff berth for the White Sox for the fifth time in seven years under Guillen, but it was a rewarding 2010 performance nonetheless.
"They pushed the pedal for as hard as they can and for as long as they could," Guillen said. "And that's something I feel proud of. Right now they're still the same guys, come with the same attitude, and I appreciate that."
"Looking back, we overcame a lot at the start of the season but that hurt this team more than we know," Putz said. "That first six weeks buried us, even though we did climb back from it because Minnesota and those teams hit the skids."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.