Asked to describe his team’s overall effort in Wednesday’s game against the Guardians, acting White Sox manager Miguel Cairo had a simple response.
“We didn't play good,” Cairo said postgame. “They played better than us. Simple as that.”
Cairo reiterated that point a couple of times in his postgame media session, after the Guardians handed the White Sox an 8-2 loss at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Cleveland, after taking Tuesday’s series opener, will leave Chicago with no worse than a series win in the pivotal matchup with the White Sox — whose playoff outlook looks bleak with 13 games remaining.
The White Sox fell six games behind the Guardians — effectively seven because Cleveland holds the division tiebreaker. The Guardians’ magic number to win the AL Central is seven.
“We’ve got to put it behind [us],” Cairo said. “We got to come back. I’m not giving up. They're not giving up.
“We're gonna come back [Thursday] and play it again. The season’s not over. We still got to come and play hard — the way it’s supposed to be played.”
The Sox have 13 games remaining and are not mathematically eliminated, but they would have to play perfect baseball over the next two weeks to catch Cleveland — and that's in an optimistic scenario.
Even if the Guardians play about .500 baseball (6-7) over their final 13 games, the White Sox would have to go 13-0 to win the AL Central.
Is it a surprise they’re six games back in the division race this late in the season, especially considering the expectations around the team entering this season?
“Nothing surprises you. Especially when you play like sh-- all year,” said starter Lance Lynn, who allowed six runs (three earned) in six innings Wednesday.
“We've been six games out all year it seems like. We’ve still got some time left, but we put ourselves in a hole, that's for sure.”
Not only in the division, but the wild card race — despite its expansion to three teams this season. The Sox are 5 1/2 games back of the Mariners for the third spot and trail the Orioles, the first team behind Seattle, by 1 1/2 games.
The White Sox’ wild card elimination number is nine.
After a sloppy 11th inning in Tuesday’s loss to the Guardians, the Sox got off to a poor start Wednesday. The Guardians scored twice in the first, one on a throwing error by third baseman Yoán Moncada.
The Guardians also tallied two infield singles hit to Moncada in the first: one on a routine grounder that Cleveland’s Amed Rosario beat out and another grounder that ate him up.
"I didn't want to get into the difficult bounce,” Moncada said of the Rosario play. “That was my read of the groundball, just prepare to step back and then tried to rush it at the end."
Moncada’s solo home run in the fourth inning accounted for half the Sox’ offense, while a fundamentally sound Guardians team put on a baserunning clinic, going first to third base throughout the night to set up runs.
Opposite of Lynn, Triston McKenzie struck out 13 in eight innings of work, allowing six hits and two runs.
The White Sox entered this series realistically needing a sweep to stay in the AL Central race, if not the playoff picture overall. That they lost the first two games, predictably, is a major disappointment.
“Right now it's a punch in the gut,” Lynn said. “But we've got to come back, try to salvage tomorrow and then see what we can do the rest of the year.
“It’s never gonna be easy. We put ourselves in a hole from not playing as well as we could. We're still not eliminated. We got a lot of work to do, and we need some help. So, it starts with trying to get a win tomorrow."