The manner in which the White Sox were eliminated from the American League Central title race Sunday disgusted acting manager Miguel Cairo.
“Today was the worst one,” Cairo said of the Sox’s sixth consecutive defeat — a lifeless 4-1 loss to the last-place Tigers that gave the Guardians the division title.
“That’s not acceptable. That’s not baseball. That’s not what the Chicago White Sox are about. It was terrible.”
In a fitting manner, the Sox wasted six shutout innings by ace Dylan Cease thanks to a feeble offense that produced one extra base hit (a home run by Yoan Moncada), a bullpen that allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to score in the seventh and eighth innings, and a wide throw by second baseman Romy Gonzalez on a potential double play that might have prevented three runs in the eighth.
In the bottom of the eighth, Adam Engel was nailed at first base after aborting his steal attempt for the first out with the Sox trailing by three runs.
“You can put it either way,” Cairo responded to a question about the Sox’s effort. “Execution. Effort. Everything.”
The loss sank the Sox (76-77) below .500 for the first time since Sept. 1. They entered last week hoping a six-game homestand would enable them to cut their four-game deficit. Instead they fell 10 games back — starting with a three-games sweep by the more-polished Guardians.
“I think we definitely didn’t play up to our abilities,” Cease said in assessing the season. “I’d have to really take a step back and look at it. I don’t really want to comment just off the wing, but I think we all know we had more in the tank.”
The Sox fell to 13-12 since Cairo took over for Tony La Russa on Aug. 30, but Sunday’s loss stood out in a manner that annoyed Cairo.
“You saw for six series the way you are supposed to play the game,” Cairo said. “And you saw (Sunday) it was totally different team. So, just better go back and get a day off (Monday) and regroup, and there’s nine more games. You got to finish strong and hard.”
Even with several players coping with an assortment of nagging injuries, Cairo doesn’t plan to shut anyone down.
“They are all playing, Tuesday until the last game (Oct. 5). So they better bring some effort. It was kind of embarrassing.”
Sunday’s loss marked the 12th time the Sox entered the seventh inning with a lead, only to lose the game. They also scored three runs or fewer for the 75th time in 153 games.
This marked the first time the Sox were swept in a homestead of at least six games since May 19-24, 1989, to the Blue Jays and Orioles.
During their current losing streak, the Sox lost two games after Cease departed with leads.
“It was tough,” Cease said of the general disappointment of the week. “After a disappointing season, for it to be sort of capped off by this, it’s tough. I still like us to finish strong with our last nine, so I’m looking forward to that.”
While Cease spoke, many players packed their equipment in preparation for the last trip to Minnesota and San Diego, with the pounding of attendants removing mud from cleats dominating the sound inside the clubhouse.
“We’re definitely disappointed,” Cease said. “We take the game serious. We compete, so when you compete and it doesn’t work out, it’s frustrating. We’re disappointed, but we got a lot of professional guys here, guys with a lot of big league time. We’re not sulking. We’re showing up to play the rest of the games.”