If you were hoping a fresh page on the calendar would turn a page on the White Sox season, you had to be disappointed. The formula changed a little bit, but the result remains the same.
The Sox actually showed fight today. They trailed by as much as 6-0, and chipped away to make it a 6-4 game entering the bottom of the ninth. Baltimore closer Kevin Gregg did not have his good control - he walked Alexei Ramirez, gave up a single to Carlos Quentin, and after a strikeout of Paul Konerko, fell into a full count against Alex Rios.
Rios watched a curveball start off the outside of the plate, and it kept hooking towards the chalk fo the left-handed batter's box.
Home plate umpire Cory Blaser, of course, called it a strike. Rios was apoplectic, and soon he was ejected. It was the worst strike call of the year against the Sox, and it couldn't happen at a worse time. A.J Pierzynski grounded out to second to end the game, sending the Sox to their fifth straight loss.
That's not to say Blaser's call prevented an automatic comeback by the White Sox, but he took the bat out of Rios' hands after Rios did his job, more or less.
Looking at it more cynically, the White Sox have been letting pitchers off the hook all season -- they didn't need Blaser's help.
Blaser robbed Rios of a much-needed chance at redemption, because it was all bad news up to that point. After Mark Reynolds' solo homer gave Baltimore a 2-0 lead, Rios helped put the Orioles on a course to grab four more runs with the very next batter. He misplayed Felix Pie's ball into a triple. It was well-struck, but Rios held his ground for far too long, and even when he started running back, he didn't seem to know how far it was hit. The ball beat him to the wall, and Gavin Floyd was in trouble.
Floyd, who had more or less cruised through the first four innings, failed at damage control. He walked Robert Andino and Brian Roberts to load the bases, and then Nick Markakis unloaded them with a double that split the left-center gap. Floyd almost got out of the inning by striking out Derrek Lee and getting Vladimir Guerrero to fly out to center, but Luke Scott delivered a single to stretch the lead to 6-0.
The White Sox offense finally got going with a Brent Lillibridge solo shot in the bottom of the inning. They finally started stringing together good plate appearances after starter Zach Britton departed the game after six.
Gordon Beckham led off the seventh with a single that a diving Pie played into a double, giving Beckham his first extra-base hit since April 15. After a Brent Morel pop-up, Juan Pierre and Ramirez drew walks off Jason Berken to load the bases. Buck Showalter called for Jim Johnson, who seemed to stall the rally when Quentin popped out weakly to second.
Konerko kept the inning alive and drove in a run with a walk. Up came Rios, who bounced the first pitch he saw to third for a routine, inning-ending 5-3.
Some of us wondered why Ozzie Guillen might not call for Adam Dunn in such a situation to face the righty with an opportunity to tie the game. Johnson had no backup in the bullpen. Alas.
Dunn did come to the plate to hit for Brent Morel with a runner on first, and he tied Lillibridge with his third homer of the year. Unfortunately, that only made it a 6-4 game.
*Rios went 0-for-5 with the cheap strikeout and eight left on base. The Sox were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position as a team.
*Beckham had his first great day at the plate in ages, going 2-for-3 with the double and a walk.