This defeat left the White Sox at 2-3 on this six-game, West Coast road trip and at just 5-5 in their past 10 games. In fact, Chicago has alternated wins and losses since Sept. 5.
Wednesday's setback became that much more significant courtesy of a 4-3 victory for the Tigers (78-67) over Kansas City and Minnesota (74-72) completing the home sweep of Cleveland. The White Sox now sit 6 1/2 games out of first, with an elimination number of 11, and find themselves two games out of second in the AL Central.
Playing on the West Coast, manager Ozzie Guillen's charges basically knew the task at hand before the first pitch was thrown.
"Every day is more important," said White Sox third baseman Gordon Beckham, who launched his 12th home run with one out in the eighth in celebration of his 23rd birthday for the team's lone run. "We saw they won and we had to win. I don't think we are focused on what they are doing, but when they win, you know you have to win too."
"Every time we lose, it's a bad day, a very bad day," Guillen said. "Every time we win, it's hope. Every time we lose, it's not a good day for us, no matter the score or how we lose, especially when teams we chase win."
Left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith (4-3) held the White Sox scoreless over seven innings, despite giving up nine hits overall in his eight innings of work and yielding seven hits through five innings. But once again, the White Sox struggled to deliver the game-changing clutch hit.
Rowland-Smith allowed singles to Alexei Ramirez and Jermaine Dye with one out in the second, but Carlos Quentin ended the rally on a double-play grounder started by shortstop Josh Wilson. Quentin, Alex Rios and Jayson Nix all singled in the fifth, but Quentin was thrown out at second after a rundown when he strayed too far past first base on his blooper that fell in front of Ichiro Suzuki in right.
To open the seventh, Ramirez walked and Dye singled for the start of a would-be rally. Dye broke a 0-for-20 funk with his single in the second and, despite his first multi-hit effort since Aug. 17, is hitting .127 over his past 21 games.
Ramirez moved to third on Quentin's long fly out to right, and Dye moved up to second on Rios' tap out in front of the plate that catcher Kenji Johjima turned into an out at first. Nix struck out swinging, leading to a Rowland-Smith fist pump and a chance for David Aardsma to pick up save No. 35 while facing his old team two innings later.
"In that situation, I felt like I just made the pitch," said Rowland-Smith of the Nix strikeout in the seventh. "That's why I was fired up. I stayed within myself, executed the pitch and it felt good."
"He kept us off balance," said Beckham of Rowland-Smith. "He had a good changeup going and a pretty good curveball. He pitched a heck of a game and you have to tip your hat to him. What are you going to do? He was on his game, and we just didn't come through tonight."
Gavin Floyd (11-11) suffered the loss, lasting only three innings before exiting with a sore left hip. He gave up three runs on four hits. That pain for Floyd, which has been with him for a few weeks, could be enough for the right-hander to be shut down if the White Sox drop quickly and all-but-completely out of postseason contention.
As of Wednesday, the White Sox hope for overtaking the Tigers stands on AL Central life support. Each loss like Wednesday reduces their chance for division survival.
"When you have [seven] hits in five innings and you don't score any runs, that's pretty tough," said Guillen, whose team finished 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. "The only thing we have to continue to do is play hard and see what happens. But every time this shrink a little more, it shrinks a lot."