One bad pitch dooms Buehrle, Sox

One bad pitch dooms Buehrle

ANAHEIM -- The pitch count for Mark Buehrle read 102, of which 63 were strikes, when he exited Los Angeles' 10-7 victory over the White Sox with two outs in the sixth inning Monday night at Angel Stadium.

It was one particular pitch in the fifth inning, at least in Buehrle's mind, which really changed the fortunes of this series opener. And according to the White Sox southpaw, the fastball lofted out by Vladimir Guerrero with two runners on and one out, giving the Angels (23-17) the lead for good, 5-4, wasn't that bad of an offering to most mortal hitters.

"If I throw that pitch to anyone else, they pop it up, take it or miss it," said Buehrle of the 1-1 inside fastball Guerrero crushed for home run No. 4, which marked his first long ball since April 25. "It shows how good of a hitter he is."

"That's Vlad," added White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "You throw a pitch to him a foot outside, and he hits a home run to right. You throw it a foot inside, and he hits a home run to left."

Guerrero's at-bat might not have mattered if not for two infield hits to start the rally. Sean Rodriguez reached on a grounder that took a bad hop off shortstop Orlando Cabrera, and Gary Matthews Jr. was credited with a hit when second baseman Juan Uribe couldn't handle his grounder behind second.

That sort of bad luck has characterized the start of 2008 for Buehrle, who slipped to 1-5 and has not won since April 6 in Detroit. He has given up 19 hits and 13 earned runs over his last 11 1/3 innings, including six earned runs allowed Monday.

Yet, appearances can be deceiving. While Buehrle hasn't worked at his sharpest level, he also hasn't struggled like the first half of his 2003 season (2-10 start) or the second half of 2006 (3-7, 6.44 ERA).

"This one isn't similar to the one from a couple of years ago," Buehrle said of his infrequent career slumps, after striking out six and walking one against the Angels. "A couple of years ago, it seemed like I couldn't get anyone out. They hit the ball hard against me."

"To be honest, they hit some balls in perfect places," Pierzynski added. "He's had some good outings and a couple of bad ones, but he's throwing the ball better. Maybe he's angered the baseball gods, and we have to find a way to change his luck around."

Los Angeles actually trailed by 3-0 and 4-2 margins, before Guerrero's blast. The lead grew to 6-4 by the time the fifth inning was complete, and the Angels added on four more in the sixth against Buehrle, Ehren Wassermann and Boone Logan. But the White Sox (18-19) were not quite finished.

Trailing by a 10-4 margin in the eighth, the South Siders managed to bring closer Francisco Rodriguez (15th save) into the game to record the final two outs in preserving Nick Adenhart's first big league victory. Rodriguez struck out Pierzynski looking with runners on first and third, dropping the White Sox to 2-2 on this 10-game West Coast road trip.

Jermaine Dye led the 14-hit attack with a double and three singles, raising his average to .298. Pierzynski, Nick Swisher, Joe Crede and Uribe added two hits apiece, as the bottom five of the order accounted for all but one of the safeties and reached base 17 times.

Cabrera, Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome and Paul Konerko finished a combined 1-for-17 and reached base three times.

"We battled, had chances and left a lot of guys on base," said Pierzynski, whose team left eight on base, but finished 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Monday's loss dropped the White Sox two games behind the Twins in the American League Central and one-half game in back of the Indians, who split a doubleheader with Toronto. Of course, the standings don't matter at this early stage.

What does truly count is getting Buehrle back on track and soon. On Monday, Buehrle felt as if one pitch to Guerrero meant the difference between victory and defeat. It could have been the difference between his present slump continuing or the potential start of a personal winning streak.

"Sometimes this game ... it's stupid," Buehrle said. "It's one pitch out of [102].

"I keep on saying it all evens out. I just hope it starts evening out soon."

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