CHICAGO -- Few things look smaller than poorly executed small ball, with the possible exception of Chone Figgins' strike zone.
With Bartolo Colon out for the series, Jarrod Washburn recovering from strep throat, the Angels' starting rotation on fumes and the rest of the team still busy adjusting their watches, the White Sox needed to take control Tuesday night before their opponents could return to their full and upright positions. With their hottest starter fully rested, the Sox needed to jump on Paul Byrd (pitching on three days' rest), score some early runs and not give the Angels' bullpen a chance to rest.
Instead, the White Sox squandered this golden (if not downright necessary) opportunity by going positively sub-atomic in a 3-2 loss.
Small ball is one thing, but you couldn't see this with a pair of Harry Caray's old eyeglasses.
"We didn't think they would show up and not play hard,'' starting pitcher Jose Contreras said. "We just didn't play well. We left too many guys on base and we didn't execute when we needed to execute.''
No kidding. Not even the state of Texas would have executed the way the White Sox went about it.
The White Sox failed to get a bunt down three times. They failed to throw out a basestealer on a pitchout. They turned a bouncer to third into a run-scoring single. They misread a sign from their third base coach.
This wasn't Ozz-Fest. This was an offense so quiet only certain breeds of dogs could hear it.
"We failed today at moving the guys over,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We didn't do the job and when we fail doing that, it's hard for us to win. We don't have the type of team that's going to score 20 runs.''
How did the White Sox turn a whiter shade of Pale Hose? Let us count the ways:
Jermaine Dye hit 31 home runs this season, but with the Sox trailing by a run he tried bunting to lead off the sixth inning. He popped out to pitcher Paul Byrd. "The third baseman was playing way back,'' he said. "If they're going to give us that, we've got to take it. He was making his pitches and we needed to get something going against him. It was a good idea, I just didn't get it down.''
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski didn't steal a single base all season and yet he was gunned down trying to do so with one out in the seventh inning.
"I saw a hit-and-run sign so I took off,'' he said. "Did I miss the sign? I guess I did.''
With Chicago still trailing by a run in the eighth, Juan Uribe led off with a single, but Scott Podsednik handicapped a potential rally by failing to get a bunt down and striking out instead. Carl Everett then reached base on an error to lead off the ninth but Aaron Rowand messed up a bunt, allowing Figgins, the Angels' third baseman, to throw Everett out at second.
"He showed bunt early enough for me to get in there and he bunted it hard enough for me to go to second,'' Figgins said.
The Angels were supposed to be the team that would show up flat Tuesday, owing to a schedule in which they played three games in three nights in three time zones and flew two red-eye flights in between. Instead, they simply outplayed the White Sox. Most importantly, they executed when they needed to, turning two singles to begin the third inning into two runs, thanks in large part to a properly laid-down sacrifice bunt.
Could it be that instead of gaining an advantage from the Angels' demanding schedule, the White Sox got rusty from sitting around for three days?
"I don't know. I've never been in the situation where I've won a Division Series and had to play another series the next day to see if there's a difference,'' White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. "When you don't hit and don't put up a lot of offense, you look pretty flat. If we had scored a bunch of runs and lost 11-10, no one would be talking about this. But it still would be a loss.''
The bottom line is the White Sox are down 1-0 in the series and the Angels will gain a needed day of rest Thursday that should put their rotation in decent shape (as long as Washburn is fully recovered). This was Chicago's big chance to take a major step toward it first World Series in 46 years and the Sox popped it up.
Chicago had a big upper hand entering this series. It doesn't any longer.
Maybe the Sox should get ready for Game 2 by staying up all night out at O'Hare.
Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," was published by Plume. It can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.