- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox on Wednesday fell to a place they haven’t seen since late July -- second place in the American League Central.
With the White Sox’s 6-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians coupled with a Detroit Tigers’ win, Chicago relinquished first place, which they had owned at least a share of since July 24.
And now with seven games remaining and down a game to the Tigers, it’s no longer completely up to them if they reach the playoffs.
“Obviously, now you need help,” White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. “Even if you win out, they can win out, and it doesn’t work. That’s about it.
“There’s still like we’ve been saying all week for the last month, you’re talking about a game lead, a two-game lead, everything is so fragile. You talk about the momentum swings that can happen. This is one of them, the wrong way. It doesn’t mean in two days it doesn’t swing the other way. That’s what you hang your hat on.”
The message was reiterated throughout the team’s clubhouse after Wednesday’s defeat.
“We had this happen before, of just dropping like this,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We’re going to continue to battle. We’re going to scratch and claw. We don’t plan on going anywhere. Plan on playing hard and finishing up.”
But the White Sox have lost seven of their last eight games and have scored five runs or more just once during that span. On Wednesday, Sox pitchers walked a season-high 12 hitters, and they couldn’t hold on to a 3-1 first-inning lead.
“We still have to win games,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “We can’t play like we did tonight. I know that. We have to find a way to win games. We jump out to a lead and we have to shut them down. Unfortunately, tonight we weren’t able to do that. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.”
Despite the struggles, the White Sox don’t plan to try anything different on Thursday when they open a series against the Tampa Bay Rays. They’ve gotten this far with the same approach, and they will see it through.
“There’s no pressing,” Pierzynski said. “I don’t think anything is going to change. I don’t see guys coming in (Thursday) nervous as they can be or trying too hard. I think the guys are professional guys. We have a lot of veteran guys, especially on the offensive side. They are just going to go about their business the same way.
“That’s why you have a routine in this game and you stick with the routine and do the same things every day and at the end of the year, hopefully things work out enough that you are going to the postseason.”
Konerko believes he and his teammates are also now used to playing in the pressure-filled situations.
It’s not as if the White Sox have ever held a large divisional lead. Their biggest September advantage was three games on the Tigers.
“When you’re playing ball games where you’re a game up, two games up for months now, you’re kind of now used to it,” Konerko said. “You can only prepare so much. Everybody in this locker room has failed miserably in some situation and has had success in situation. You go out and do your best and prepare as hard as you can.
“Once that game starts, you can let it happen. If it doesn’t happen, that’s the way it goes sometimes. You prepare and get ready to play. As far as tight, that’s not going to be the reason why we don’t get to where we want to go.”