The Chicago White Sox needed a sweep for a realistic chance of overtaking the Cleveland Guardians in the MLS Central.
Instead, they were overrun.
And now the team that once had world championship aspirations is on the verge of losing the post-season.
The Sox entered the series’ opening game Friday against the Detroit Tigers seven runs behind the Guardian – eight considering the Guardian owns the tiebreak – with 12 remaining after losing three in a row at a guaranteed rate field.
Tuesday had a qualifier-like buzz, with The Guardians win 10-7 in 11 rounds. This victory secured the Guardians’ tiebreaker advantage.
The players looked at the bigger picture.
“We’ve had big rushes playing really well baseball, but they haven’t been consistent enough,” right-hand player Gavin Sheets said after Thursday’s loss. “It’s definitely not about those three games. I think we all agree we should have played better baseball, which is frustrating.”
Sox has been consistently inconsistent for most of the season.
But they had a chance to get into one division match heading into the Guardians Series if they were all going to win. And they didn’t get the job done.
Here are three reasons why the series has moved away from Sox.
Whether it was an outside player getting spilled, as was the case for Sox left-footed AJ Bullock on Tuesday, or one of the players unable to complete a potential double in the first half, as was the case for Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada on Wednesday, The Guardians Ready to take advantage of opportunities.
Andres Jimenez finished third with a hat-trick in the second half on Tuesday after Bullock fell while chasing the ball. Giménez scored in a one-time sacrifice fly.
The Sox scored three goals in sixth to lead 3-1, only to tie the Guardians in the seventh inning with a back-to-back walk issued by Jimmy Lambert at the start of the half to score.
The Sox rallied in 10th, matching the Guardians’ two runs to two against the closest Emmanuel Clase. But the Guardians slipped away in 11th place from five rounds, with the team’s final round approaching when Amed Rosario stole third place and scored on a Seby Zavala throwback.
Acting manager Miguel Cairo blamed himself after the match, but Bullock was quick to say that wasn’t the case.
“I played an unorthodox (defensive) play in[Second],” Bullock said. “Trying to make an aggressive play and I got caught up in a weird spot, maybe it was a double and it ended up being a triple, and the run that ended up scoring was a long way to go.
“A couple of missed chances throughout the match. A couple of defensive mistakes. It was definitely an execution on our part.”
Rosario set the tone on Wednesday, qualifying for third and beating Moncada’s throw for first. Rosario didn’t score, but she was an example of the pressure the Guardians put on every game.
“You have to be very alert with every ball he hits because they have a very good speed,” Moncada said through an interpreter after Wednesday’s game. “You have to try to attack because you know they have the speed and they can defeat you.”
The Guardians have found ways to craft runs against strong bowlers like Johnny Koito, who allowed four runs — three earned — in eight strokes in six rounds on Thursday.
Jose Ramirez hit a ground hit in the first, moved up to third in a single and scored a solo goal by Jimenez.
After two rounds, Rosario reached one hit, and moved up to third when he threw Koito wildly in a small attempt and scored at the Ramirez Sacrifice fly.
“They run and stumble,” Koito said through an interpreter. “They are playing hard. And they put the ball into play.”
Mackenzie Sheets and Andrew Vaughn hit to start the second round on Wednesday.
It was the start of another big strike night for McKenzie against the Sox. He hit two hits in six of his eight innings and finished with 13. Mackenzie hit 14 Sox on August 19 at Progressive Field.
“He knows how to play against us, and we have to raise the bar,” Moncada said.
Bieber didn’t put up big strike numbers on Thursday, finishing with five, but he did limit the Sox to seven hits, including five singles. The Sox didn’t walk for the second game in a row.
After scoring 11 runs on Sunday against the Tigers in Detroit, the Sox had 11 in all three games against the Guardians.
Cairo said ahead of Friday’s game that the key to recovery after a difficult streak was no change.
“We are professionals, we have professional baseball players,” Cairo said. It’s not over yet. You never know what could happen. They can lose 10 out of 12. They have to play Tampa, they have to play Texas, and you don’t know what you’re going to get with Kansas City. They have Good and young team.
“We just have to keep playing and playing until the end.”