Dewayne Wise made a spectacular, historic catch to save Buehrle's masterpiece in the ninth inning, the White Sox moved into a first-place tie with the Detroit Tigers atop the American League Central and Ozzie Guillen's crew sat five games over .500. All was right with the baseball world on Chicago's South Side.
Moving into the White Sox final home series of the 2009 campaign this weekend against Detroit, that uplifting feeling of hope has all but given way to stunned silence for both the team and its ace hurler. Minnesota's 8-6 victory on Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field completed the Twins' three-game sweep of the White Sox and reduced their elimination number to two.
Basically, one Detroit win this weekend and their playoff possibilities officially will come to a close. The White Sox (73-80) matched their season-worst for games under .500 at seven, and they now sit in their deepest hole behind Detroit at nine games out. Their record on this closing nine-game homestand stands at 1-5.
Buehrle (12-10) actually started Wednesday's contest but lasted just 3 1/3 innings. The left-hander gave up four earned runs on eight hits, walking one, and for the third time this season, he didn't strike out an opposing hitter. After the loss, Guillen and catcher A.J. Pierzynski pointed out that Buehrle did not have anything close to his best stuff from the outset.
"Velocity was very down," said Guillen of Buehrle, who threw just 57 pitches before Guillen removed him with a runner on second and one run in. "You can see from the beginning he did not have the best stuff coming out of his hand."
"You could see it in the bullpen," Pierzynski said. "From the first pitch, he didn't feel right or comfortable. It was just a bad outing."
Minnesota (79-73) took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth, at which point, the White Sox began a brief comeback. Carlos Quentin and Jayson Nix delivered run-scoring singles in the fourth and fifth, respectively, off of Brian Duensing (5-1), and Jermaine Dye launched his 26th home run with Alexei Ramirez on base in the sixth.
It was Dye's first home run since Aug. 30, ending a stretch of 58 at-bats without going deep. He didn't wait nearly that long to clear the fences again, driving out home run No. 27 off of reliever Bobby Keppel to cut the Twins' 8-4 lead in half in the eighth.
"I used my 10th stance to break out of it for a day and feel good," said a smiling Dye, who had 19 RBIs in the entire second half before Wednesday. "It's too bad we have a day off tomorrow because you want to get back in the box and keep that good feeling."
"We accomplished a couple things," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We won our ballgames and we got a couple of guys hot so they can go play Detroit. I think Jermaine Dye, we put him on track and maybe now he can go take care of the Motown boys."
Dye and his teammates ultimately could not take care of the Twins, even though they brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth inning against All-Star closer Joe Nathan (44th save). But Ramirez popped out to first baseman Michael Cuddyer, stranding two runners and leaving the White Sox in an absolute uphill climb simply to get to .500.
"When you lose games and have a record under .500 and have no chance to go to the postseason, it's always disappointing," said Pierzynski, hitting .307 after Wednesday's 1-for-5 showing. "It's very frustrating and disappointing and it all stinks. I hate to lose. It gets so old after a while.
"You do all you can in your power. It just seems like something bad got in this team and it's been downhill ever since. Everyone has tried everything and it hasn't worked out. It wasn't meant to be."
That bad moment for the White Sox clearly was a 3-8 road trip through Boston, New York, Minneapolis and Wrigley Field at the end of August and into the start of September. The team went from 2 1/2 back to seven games out and never returned to the race.
Since the perfect game, Buehrle has a 1-7 record with a 5.18 ERA over 12 starts. The left-hander has yielded 97 hits in 73 innings during that stretch.
Going back to that same memorable day, the last time the White Sox held at least a share of first place, the White Sox have a 23-35 ledger. That personal milestone for Buehrle stands out as the highlight of a dismal 28-37 second half for the team.
"Aggravating. Very frustrating. Just downright, you just want to run around and scream and yell and hit something," said Pierzynski of his team's fade. "It's been so maddening with what's happened. It seems like it was just a month ago when we were tied for first and rolling and it was like, 'Here we go. We are going to win the division, get into the postseason and see what happens.'
"One month later, you wonder where did it all go? What changed so quickly?"
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.