Jake Peavy wasn't the only pitcher cementing himself on the wrong side of White Sox history on Tuesday night's loss to the Cleveland Indians. At least he escaped with a no-decision.
Matt Thornton watched from the dugout as Nate Jones failed to strand Thornton's runner on second. Lonnie Chisenhall, who redirected a decently located Thornton fastball for a double, scored on Jason Donald's single to end the game.
And so Thornton was tagged with his 10th loss of the season. That's a rare feat for White Sox relievers, and unprecedented in the modern bullpen era.
The last true reliever to lose 10 games, and only out of the bullpen? Wilbur Wood, who did it in both 1969 and 1970. But those who are familiar with Wood's career know he can't be properly compared to anybody. If you add in his 1968 season (88 appearances, two starts), the portly knuckleballer went 32-36 with a 2.50 ERA while averaging 133 innings over that three-year stretch.
He did what he could, but the White Sox scraped the bottom in those years, losing 95, 94 and 106 games. In an interview with Mark Liptak at White Sox Interactive, Wood shared what it was like getting tagged with those losses:
Liptak: The White Sox fell on miserable times in the late 60's and 1970. I think they lost more games in that three year period then at any other time in franchise history. The Sox lost 106 games in 1970. It had to be agony going to the park everyday. I don’t know how you guys kept your sanity!
Wood: "It was awful. I’ll tell you how bad it was. The only games that I ever wanted to come into were games where I could pick up a save. I never wanted to go into games where the score was tied because I knew and everybody on the team knew, that we’d find some way to lose the game. We had no chance. The pitchers knew it and the position players knew it."
Thornton never suggested he had the same mindset, but he certainly hit similar ruts in terms of performance in 2012. His misfortune might have been even more noticeable in some respects, since he was tagged with 10 losses despite throwing only half as many innings as a typical Wood season. Hell, he has his own brand of luck with games like these, although he just plain faltered many other times. It was not his best work, and there are signs saying his best days are behind him.
Thornton did right himself to give the Sox a strong performance as the rest of the team started to flag, but he couldn't shake the tendency to be the guy who ended up wearing it. Tuesday's loss breaks the tie with Keith Foulke (2001) and Ed Farmer (1980), both of whom lost nine games as closers.