Buehrle felt trouble brewing as early as his pregame bullpen work. The left-hander has said previously that poor warmup stuff usually leads to a strong game effort. That theory didn't play out against the Indians (14-13), as the White Sox four-game win streak overall and eight-game win streak in Cleveland came to an end.
"It's tough when you get down like that and you don't give your team a chance to win or get back in it," said Buehrle, who slipped to 3-2 and watched his ERA jump to 3.76. "I just couldn't get loose. You are throwing 83 mph down the middle, and you ain't going to get too many people out."
Tuesday's contest was played under a steady rainfall from basically the third inning on, but Buehrle refused to blame the conditions for his rough start. He took the same approach when asked about adjusting to the 11 a.m. CT start, although Buehrle joked that he's usually in bed at the time he was getting ready for the game.
Trouble started for Buehrle in the first inning, when Jason Michaels walked and Jhonny Peralta singled with one out, and Hafner launched a 1-1 pitch to right-center for a 3-0 Cleveland lead. The Indians had at least one baserunner in every inning against Buehrle and had a hit in every frame but the third.
Giving up hits is nothing new for Buehrle, not for a pitcher who relies on location, but tops out in the low 90s. In fact, his hits allowed went up every year until last season, and he has given up at least 236 hits in each of the last four seasons.
But Tuesday's loss was a different feeling for Buehrle and the White Sox (18-8).
"It was a weird game for him," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Buehrle. "He always throws strikes. He is always around the plate. He just had a bad outing. It happens.
"He had a bad outing against the wrong people. These guys will take advantage of any mistake you make. It was one of those days where nothing worked for him. They kick our butt and we have to take it."
While Buehrle struggled on the mound, the White Sox didn't do much to help him on offense. The South Siders banged out 11 hits against C.C. Sabathia (1-0) and two relievers but stranded 14 runners for the second straight game. They left at least two runners on base in five of the first seven innings, including ending the fifth with the bases loaded, after one run already had scored.
Regulars such as Jim Thome, A.J. Pierzynski and Scott Podsednik didn't start Tuesday's two-game series finale, and Jermaine Dye left in the third after re-aggravating a left calf strain that left him once again day to day. Joe Crede knocked out three hits, raising his average to .369 over his last 18 games, while Paul Konerko added two hits, lifting his average to .400 since starting 2006 in a 1-for-13 funk.
But the White Sox clutch hitting, a strong suit of their offense, was missing in action at the end of this 5-3 road trip.
"I like it that way because it means we have a chance to score runs in every inning," Guillen said. "We just have a lot of guys on base, and all of a sudden we can't bring them in. It was just a matter of one hit here and there and we score a couple of runs."
"It was one of those games where everyone couldn't get it together," added White Sox center fielder Brian Anderson, who said he was surprised by the effective changeups offered up by the hard-throwing Sabathia. "That won't happen very often."
Rough outings for a pitcher who has won at least 14 games in each of his five full seasons as a starter also are few and far between. It was not a good road trip for the southpaw, though, as he allowed 20 hits and 11 earned runs over his last 12 2/3 innings, striking out three and walking three.
The next chance for Buehrle to end this personal two-game losing streak comes Sunday against Kansas City, at U.S. Cellular Field, where he is 48-24 during his career. Buehrle is not worried about going through a dead-arm period, much like Jon Garland's issue at the start of 2006.
Tuesday simply was a dead-arm day for the White Sox ace.
"I feel good physically, but I just couldn't get the velocity where I wanted it to be," Buehrle said. "Thirteen hits, and I couldn't even get to six innings.
"Today, I made a couple of good pitches, but other than that, I was throwing stuff down the middle and didn't have anything. It pretty much can't get any worse than that."