And even with Detroit ace Justin Verlander on the mound for Sunday afternoon's season finale, with the White Sox facing a five-run deficit with one out and nobody on base in the eighth, Ozzie Guillen's charges refused to give in. They rallied for three in the frame, but came up just a bit short in Detroit's 5-3 victory before 35,806 at Comerica Park.
If this same sort of life shown by the White Sox during their past three series victories was prevalent throughout the past five weeks, then Guillen might have provided a different sort of overall analysis for the 2009 campaign as his team was preparing for the postseason.
"Our season? Our season was very bad," Guillen said after Detroit's win left his third-place team seven games behind the Tigers. "We weren't playing good baseball for a period of time. That's the reason we are going home. That's why our season was short."
"A lot of ups and downs," said White Sox right Jermaine Dye of the team's overall effort. "That's basically what it was about. We really didn't get on any hot streaks. Kind of just an up-and-down season."
Based on these 2009 characterizations provided by Dye and Guillen, Sunday's contest was a fitting finish.
Verlander (19-9) gave up just two singles prior to the eighth inning, with no White Sox player even reaching second base. But just as the Sox looked as if they would quietly bow out, just as the fans in Minneapolis had given up hope for winning the division outright, the White Sox strung together four straight hits after Mark Kotsay grounded out to shortstop Adam Everett to open the eighth.
Ramon Castro doubled home a run, and Brent Lillibridge's single scored two more to cut the lead to 5-3. Castro and Lillibridge entered Sunday with 12 RBIs combined with the White Sox.
"Obviously, he got tired in the end," said Guillen of Verlander, who threw 78 of his 120 pitches for strikes. "But I tip my hat to him. This kid went out there and did what everybody involved with the Tigers expected."
With the tying run at the plate, Verlander induced Scott Podsednik's popup to third base for the second out, but then walked Jayson Nix on four pitches. Closer Fernando Rodney was summoned to replace Verlander and face the go-ahead run in Carlos Quentin.
Quentin lofted a high fly ball to left-center that appeared fairly routine, but with the outfield playing at no-doubles depth, center fielder Curtis Granderson had a great deal of ground to cover. The product of the University of Illinois-Chicago and Thornton Fractional South High School, located just 40 minutes south of U.S. Cellular Field, made the diving catch and most likely prevented the tying runs from scoring,
Rodney gave up a leadoff single in the ninth to Dewayne Wise, who threw out Gerald Laird at the plate in the bottom of the eighth. But Rodney retired Kotsay on a fielder's-choice grounder and secured his 37th save on Rios' double-play grounder.
John Danks (13-11) suffered the loss, allowing four runs on seven hits over five innings. Those five innings pitched brought Danks' season total to 200 1/3, helping the young southpaw reach another personal goal. Home runs from Ryan Raburn and Magglio Ordonez also helped Danks take home another dubious team honor, yielding 28 home runs in 2009.
"It's nice to get to that goal. It's a goal I've set for three years," said Danks of reaching 200 innings. "I just wish I could have gone out on a little better note. I went out there and gave my best, but I didn't have my best command."
Detroit (86-76) moved one step closer to winning the American League Central, getting into a Tuesday tiebreaker at the Metrodome with the Twins. Sunday's loss couldn't take the shine off a 6-3 finish for the White Sox, putting their final record at 79-83, including a 9-9 mark against the Tigers.
Changes are sure to come for this team, although certainly not a complete overhaul. Not with young talent such as Gordon Beckham at third base and Alexei Ramirez at shortstop anchoring the left side of the infield. Not with the talent-laden starting rotation of Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Danks, Gavin Floyd and potentially Freddy Garcia in place.
Important veterans such as Dye, the Most Valuable Player in the 2005 World Series, might have played their last game for the White Sox on Sunday. A $12 million mutual option exists for Dye and the team for 2010.
As for his feelings Sunday, Dye simply was ready to get home, take a little break and get ready for next year. Dye is just not sure if he'll be part of a White Sox team that hopes to be a title contender and not a spoiler.
"I don't really have a feeling," said Dye of his White Sox future. "I'm just ready to take a little break and do the same things you do every offseason -- get home, get some rest and get off my feet. That's about it."
"After you spend all summer the way we did, and you don't get to the point you want to get, it's frustrating because you want to be in the playoffs," Guillen said. "In the meanwhile, you cannot wait to get it over with and prepare for next year."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less