White Sox can't hold early lead in loss

White Sox can't hold early lead in loss

CHICAGO -- Despite having a four-run lead and their ace on the hill, the seeds of the White Sox 9-6 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field had already been sowed after two innings.

Mark Buehrle (3-6), a pitcher who pitches to contact and keeps pitch counts low, threw 32 pitches in the opening frame, then labored again in the second. He rebounded in both innings, stranding the bases loaded in the first and inducing a double-play ball from Craig Gentry to escape a jam in the second.

"I don't remember seeing him throw that many pitches in one inning," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Buehrle's tempestuous first inning. "He was struggling from the beginning. He had a couple big pitches, and he ... got a couple double plays, but he was struggling as soon as the game started."

After laboring through the first two innings, Buehrle eventually faltered, giving up runs in the fourth and fifth innings, building up to a collapse in the sixth. Buehrle began the sixth by retiring Josh Hamilton before giving up four consecutive singles and two runs. He was removed from the game with two men on base, both of whom later scored.

"It was just a game of being bad from the get-go and pitching out of some jams early," Buehrle said. "When you are falling behind in the count, getting guys on base and pitching out of the first couple innings, it's going to catch up to you. It was a bad game for me. I couldn't get ahead in the count. We go out and get an early lead, and I've got to hold that."

Buehrle threw 106 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings, allowing 12 hits, including five up the middle, and six runs. He was saddled with the loss.

"We know Buehrle likes to change speeds, use his cutter and get you to roll over his changeup," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We just tried to hit the ball up the middle to the big part of the ballpark. We just kept putting some pressure on him."

The South Siders' offense came to play early, and the team scored four runs in the first two innings off Rangers starter Rich Harden (3-1). The first tally of the game came when Paul Konerko grounded out, allowing Juan Pierre to score.

Carlos Quentin led off the second with a home run. Gordon Beckham singled home a run, and A.J. Pierzynski added an RBI groundout to bring the score to 4-0.

"Harden threw the ball over the plate, but they hit him pretty good," Washington said. "But he only gave up four. Pierzynski did most of the damage, but [Harden] kept us in the ballgame."

Harden exited the game after five innings, giving up four runs on seven hits, three walks, and one strikeout.

"When we scored four runs in the beginning of the game, with Buehrle on the mound, you're a little excited about the game," Guillen said. "Then all of a sudden, everything was turned around. We could have scored some more. We left opportunities out there. We came up short and, obviously, our pitching wasn't that good."

The White Sox left the bases loaded in both the sixth and the ninth innings and altogether, the team stranded seven runners in scoring position.

The White Sox answered the Rangers' big sixth with two runs of their own, but Mark Kotsay flied out with the bases loaded to keep the Rangers ahead. For the game, Kotsay went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts looking.

The bases were also left loaded in the ninth, when Neftali Feliz struggled with his control, walking Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin to load the bases after Alex Rios' leadoff single. But Alexei Ramirez popped up on the first pitch of his at-bat, and Omar Vizquel followed with a routine flyout to center field, giving Feliz his 14th save of the season.

The loss sinks the White Sox to 22-29 on the season.

Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.