White Sox miss chance to gain ground

White Sox miss chance to gain ground

ARLINGTON -- There was not a hint of anger or disdain in John Danks' voice when he made the following statement after Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Just direct candor concerning the veteran hurler's thoughts on scoreboard-watching around the Fourth of July, and the White Sox missed opportunity to move within one game of Minnesota in the American League Central.

"I'm going to be totally honest," the White Sox losing pitcher said with a smile. "I have no idea who the Twins are playing and what's happened tonight. Honest to God, I don't know.

"We have way too many games against them and the Tigers to watch the scoreboard. A few months later in the season, then you start watching what others are doing."

On Saturday night, the White Sox (41-38) spent most of their time watching Texas starting pitcher Tommy Hunter (5-0) wriggle out of trouble. Hunter wouldn't qualify as dominant, giving up one run on nine hits over seven-plus innings, but he made the necessary pitches to stay out of trouble.

Take the sixth inning, for example. Paul Konerko, who joined Alexei Ramirez (three hits) and Juan Pierre with multi-hit efforts, opened the frame with a single, but Andruw Jones grounded the next pitch to third baseman Michael Young for an around-the-horn double play.

Mark Kotsay's ground ball to first baseman Joaquin Arias completed a three-pitch frame for Hunter. The White Sox have 24 hits in the first two games of this series with Texas (48-32), with only Kotsay's game-winner on Friday and Brent Lillibridge's pinch-hit double in the ninth Saturday going for extra bases.

"Sometimes I make mistakes and get away with it," said Hunter, who struck out three and walked one. "There's a couple of pitches I'd like to have back tonight before they swung. That's the thing about baseball. We were talking about it during the game. You make a bad pitch and they get out. You make a good pitch and they get a broken-bat single."

"Both of us were out there and a mistake away from giving it up. Unfortunately, Tommy didn't give it up," said Danks, who exited after six innings and 103 pitches. "I really just kind of got outpitched. Tommy Hunter was good today. You have to kind of just sort of tip your hat to him, for sure."

Danks (7-7) wasn't too bad in his own right. The southpaw lost his second straight decision but pitched much better than last Sunday's setback at home against the Cubs, a defeat ending the White Sox 11-game winning streak.

Texas scored one run in the second and one run in the fifth off of Danks, who struck out four and walked four, with the Rangers adding one more in the seventh off of reliever Tony Pena. Danks seemed somewhat bothered by a few extra free passes, but was pleased with his overall effort -- a sentiment echoed by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

"Very good, especially since that ballclub is a pretty good-hitting ballclub," Guillen said. "The way we pitched against them the last couple of days is pretty good. You fall asleep for a few innings and they can score a lot of runs."

"They might have shut down the 2-3-4 hitters tonight," Texas manager Ron Washington said of the combined 0-for-9 posted by Young, Ian Kinsler and Vladimir Guerrero. "But there's no telling what's going to happen tomorrow."

As has been the case throughout the White Sox 17-5 run over the past 22 games, they did not go down without a fight. Pierre's walk and Ramirez's single knocked Hunter from the game in the eighth, and reliever Frank Francisco balked both runners up one base.

Alex Rios' groundout to second scored the team's only run, followed by Konerko's swinging strikeout and Jones' flyout to left. Lillibridge opened the ninth with his double to right but was stranded at third when closer Neftali Feliz (22nd save) fanned pinch-hitter Carlos Quentin and Gordon Beckham to end the game.

"All in all, John did a good job and deserved a better fate," said White sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who finished 1-for-4. "Things didn't work out. That's what happens sometimes."

And with their third loss in five games on this six-game road trip to Kansas City and Arlington, ending Sunday night, the White Sox missed that opportunity to climb within one game of the AL Central top spot. Instead, the White Sox now sit two games behind both Minnesota and Detroit, which are tied for the division lead after the Tigers' victory over the Mariners.

Much like the sentiment expressed by Danks, Guillen and Pierzynski agreed scoreboard-watching represents wasted energy with three months remaining.

"To me, we have to stay near them for when we play against them," Guillen said. "That's all we can do. All of a sudden, you put your mind in another place and you have too much to worry about. We're chasing people and hopefully we stay close to the people we chase."

"That's all you can really do is just play and try to win games," Pierzynski said. "There's no way you can say we have to win this game because Minnesota lost. We've played well. We hit the ball well tonight but missed by one hit. If we get one more hit, then maybe we have a chance."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.