MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 7: John Danks #50 of the Chicago White Sox reacts to giving up a two RBI single to Danny Valencia #19 of the Minnesota Twins in the third inning on September 7, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\124004738.jpg
Updated: November 26, 2011 12:28AM
MINNEAPOLIS — Home is where the scarred is for the White Sox.
Home of a 31-37 record on their own turf. Home of cranky crowds and most of them too small to match chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s $127 million payroll investment in a team that in return has given him a record that dropped to 71-70 after a 5-4 loss to the Twins on Wednesday night.
The Sox are home to play Cleveland for four games starting Thursday night, followed by three games against Detroit. A team with talent touted like the Sox’ should be giving its fan base a cool and crisp September baseball buzz.
Instead, U.S. Cellular Field will have about as much feel-good energy as a Bears preseason game with the Sox sitting nine games behind the first-place Tigers, who beat the Indians 8-6 Wednesday afternoon for their sixth win in a row. If you want to say the Sox have a mathematical chance of winning the division, go by Baseball Prospectus, which shows them having a 1.6 percent chance.
The theater was so much better on the first day of spring training, when Alex Rios proclaimed the Sox as the team to beat in their division. Who knew Rios would provide the best theater seven months later at Target Field, where he broke his bat in two pieces over his thigh after an inning-ending strikeout.
For effect, Rios threw the pieces to the ground, a snapshot picture of frustration for the 2011 Sox.
“For every single guy who walked in — whether they had been here a couple years or a long time — the expectation was the playoffs,’’ utility man Brent Lillibridge said. “The goal we’ve all had is the World Series. Things just did not go the way they should have.’’
Especially at home, which is where good teams make hay. But the Sox are the only AL team with a losing record at home and a winning record on the road.
After taking the first three games of the series, they couldn’t improve on that good number because 13 runners were left on base, and they were 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. It was an annoying reminder of problems that have haunted the Sox since spring training.
“We played typical White Sox baseball,’’ manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I don’t think we lost, I just think we gave this game away. There is no doubt in my mind we gave it away. We had a lot of chances. We can’t get the hits. I’m not talking about big hits, we can’t even get the hit.’’
Sox starter John Danks (6-11) gave up five runs (four earned) in six innings. A walk to Drew Butera, a .163 hitter batting ninth, started a three-run third inning for the Twins, who hadn’t scored in 20 innings.
Danks was stung by first baseman Paul Konerko’s throwing error after Luke Hughes was caught on a pickoff to first in the sixth inning. Konerko’s throw to second sailed into left-center field and Hughes, taking advantage of Juan Pierre’s throwing arm, scored by beating the relay to catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Konerko had three singles and an RBI, Pierre doubled in a run for his 1,999th hit and Rios hit a sacrifice fly.
After Pierzynski grounded out to score a run in the eighth and make it 5-4, Rios left a runner on third by taking a third strike, prompting the Bo Jackson imitation bat-breaker.
So now it’s back to the Cell to play the Indians in a battle for second place. If anybody believes second is important, the Sox came to the wrong place.
“I don’t see a real reason why we don’t play well there,’’ Lillibridge said. “It’s been one of those years where you feel more comfortable on the road, for whatever reason.’’
The reality is the Sox weren’t good enough anywhere.
“Yeah, it’s been a crappy year,’’ Danks said. “I’m definitely looking forward to starting next year with a clean slate.
“I’m not feeling sorry for myself, I put myself in this position. But it seems like this year, whenever anything bad can happen, it has.’’