Call it what you want, but with just 29 games remaining in the 2009 season, a loss is especially difficult no matter how it's dissected. And when the White Sox survey Tuesday's damage, it's hard to avoid some rather ugly numbers sitting right there in black and white.
Since the start of this 20 games in 20 days streak on Aug. 21, the White Sox (64-69) have a 2-10 record. They sat two behind Detroit in the American League Central on Aug. 19, and found themselves in second place. In reality, the AL Wild Card wasn't even completely out of the question.
But as of the close of Tuesday night's action, the White Sox are seven games behind the Tigers and now 3 1/2 games behind the second-place Twins (67-65).
The start of September brought the same basic result as the end of an 11-17 August.
"It's tough because we are losing heartbreakers," said White Sox third baseman Gordon Beckham of his team's five-game losing streak. "It's our third last at-bat or extra-inning loss in a week and a half. But we are still fighting and working as hard as we can to win. We just aren't finding ways to win."
Even when the White Sox fight back, as they did on Tuesday, the outcome still finishes against them.
Beckham erased a 3-1 Minnesota lead in the eighth by crushing the first pitch he saw from reliever Matt Guerrier. The rookie's ninth home run followed a four-pitch walk from Jose Mijares to Scott Podsednik.
An example of those heartbreaking setbacks described by Beckham actually came later this inning, one inning prior to the Twins' theatrics. A.J. Pierzynski had reached first on a wild pitch on a swinging third strike, and pinch-runner Dewayne Wise moved to second on a second wild pitch.
Jermaine Dye lofted a towering shot toward left, a drive looking destined for the stands. But it was hauled in at the wall by Denard Span. Carlos Quentin struck out swinging to end the frame.
"I don't know how Jermaine's ball doesn't go out," Beckham said. "It almost hit the roof."
Defense did the job again for Minnesota in the top of the ninth, when Podsednik lined a shot toward the left-center-field gap off Jon Rauch (2-0) with Alexei Ramirez on first. Carlos Gomez, who entered in the eighth and seems to make a living out of destroying White Sox dreams, chased down the line shot to keep the game tied.
"Someone else is out there but Gomez and that ball is in the gap and it's a different story," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "Like I say, you pitch well and play good defense, you always have a shot for the late innings."
Minnesota's winning rally started with Jason Kubel's single to center off reliever Matt Thornton (6-3), the hard-luck losing pitcher. Pinch-runner Nick Punto moved to third on Brendan Harris' one-out single to left-center off reliever Tony Pena, and after Gomez struck out swinging, Punto scored on pinch-hitter Jose Morales' single to right.
This setback leaves the White Sox at 1-8 on their 11-game road trip. They are 2-16 in their last 18 games at the Metrodome, more ugly numbers that the White Sox might want to read.
"They are a good team and they are playing well and we are scuffling," Beckham said. "Usually the good teams and the ones playing well win those games. Give them hats off; we got two outs, they got a base hit to win, so what are you going to do. We are playing hard and nobody is giving up."
If Danks didn't have to face Michael Cuddyer, he would have been darn near close to unhittable. He did give up four other hits, along with Cuddyer's 23rd and 24th home runs, but he certainly would have increased his chance for a victory and increased his chance to extend his winning streak to four straight. Danks threw 96 pitches over seven innings, striking out two and walking two.
"I've got success off of him, but he's tough," said Cuddyer, who is hitting just under .500 against Danks, with four home runs. "It's not like I get in the box and I'm like, 'Oh, good, I get to face John Danks.' He's a tough pitcher. He can come at you with a lot of different things. He's got a good fastball, good cutter, good changeup, good curve. For some reason, I've had some success off of him."
"Other than Cuddyer, I kept us in the game, gave us some innings and gave us a chance to win," Danks said.
With the White Sox offense struggling as it is, though, the harsh reality is that starters almost have to be perfect for a chance to win. And without the big bat of Jim Thome, moved to the Dodgers on Monday night, the offense loses another major weapon.
Guillen won't let his team give up, though. Not even after a third walk-off loss on this road trip, as Beckham mentioned.
"Hopefully, sooner than later, we can get after it and get back in this thing," Danks said.