As for the second game of this weekend set on Saturday?
Well, that swagger turned into a White Sox stagger, at least during the first seven innings of a 5-2 Royals victory. It was a case of too little, too late against Royals starter Kyle Davies for the South Siders, who saw their magic number dip to six to clinch the American League Central by virtue of Tampa Bay's victory over Minnesota, but their division lead held at 2 1/2 games.
On four occasions in September, the White Sox (85-69) have entered a respective contest with a 2 1/2-game lead. They have been unable to increase their lead past that point in all four attempts.
The loss for the Twins (83-72) went final before Gavin Floyd threw his first pitch. So, maybe it was a case of the White Sox subconsciously relaxing, knowing they couldn't lose ground in the standings.
"Maybe [we were] a little bit too relaxed, I don't know," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of his team's lack of production on Saturday. "I hope not. All of a sudden, we started the game and we know Minnesota lost and we could have a pretty interesting night. But we have to win, not worry about how Minnesota played."
"You have to give credit to that pitcher," added White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye, pointing more to Davies as the reason for defeat. "He's a good pitcher and he has pitched well against us in the past. You can't take away what he did tonight."
Dye actually turned a game that never-was into a near-miss through his ninth inning at-bat against the Royals' Joakim Soria. Dewayne Wise drew a walk to open the frame off of the All-Star closer and moved to second one out later, on A.J. Pierzynski's infield singe.
Two pitches later, Dye lofted a 1-1 offering toward the left-field fence that had all the looks of a game-tying home run. But Mark Teahen caught the towering fly ball with a sort of half-leap at the wall for a deflating second out.
Judging by Dye's exasperated reaction rounding first base, he thought the connection was solid enough to tie the game.
"I thought I got it good enough to go out," Dye said. "But this is a pretty big park now and it came up a few feet short."
"He thought he hit it good enough, but he hit it off the end of the bat," Guillen added. "As soon as he hit it, I thought it had a chance."
Jim Thome struck out swinging to end the game, ultimately handing Gavin Floyd (16-8) his second loss in the last three starts. Floyd worked on three days' rest for the first time as part of the White Sox rotation and made an admirable showing, allowing five runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings, striking out four.
Home runs from Alex Gordon, Kila Ka'aihue and David DeJesus were enough to do in Floyd without any offensive support until late. DeJesus' home run was of the inside-the-park variety, with Dye's left leg getting caught in the right-field wall as he jumped for the drive. Dye tweaked his left calf, but, after the game, said he should be fine.
"It was pretty much a case that I made a couple of bad pitches and they capitalized," said Floyd, who threw 93 pitches. "I tried to pound the zone and left them more over the plate than I wanted."
Davies (8-7) allowed leadoff singles to Orlando Cabrera and Thome in the first and second innings, respectively, but they were both erased on double plays. The right-hander then retired 17 straight, until Thome's walk and Alexei Ramirez's 20th home run to open the eighth.
Is this truly a case of temporary White Sox lethargy or just a great game from Davies?
"Give credit to [Davies]," Guillen said. "He threw the ball really well and we couldn't do anything about it. We were ready to fight. We just left the gloves at the hotel."
When the White Sox last played at Kauffman Stadium from Aug. 1-3, they won the first of that three-game set, but were handled pretty easily by the Royals in the next two.
Guillen was hoping history didn't repeat itself this weekend in Kansas City, warning against overlooking the Royals in preparing for the Twins, even after Friday's blowout. That problem didn't exactly play out on Saturday, but with seven, possibly eight, games remaining, the White Sox need that bravado back on the field for Sunday's finale.
Having Minnesota play against the Rays at the same time could be a beneficial thing for the White Sox intensity level.
"Of course you pay attention, and you know the situation," Dye said. "We only have eight games left. You know where you are and this was a missed opportunity."
"This was a little disappointing, but we are still in first, a first-place team," Floyd added. "Just put today behind us and go after them tomorrow."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less