White Sox fall further behind Guardians with loss in crucial opener

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Math, Time Working Against Sox After Losing to Guardians Originally Appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Fans at Guaranteed Rate Field began heading for the exits after Guardians outfielder Myles Straw drove a leading, two-run double into the left corner of the field in the 11th inning on Tuesday.

After three more runs were scored, the booing of the remaining White Sox fans reverberated in the announced crowd of 23,243 through the margins, with the Guardians winning 10-7 not long after.

For the White Sox, it was a sour ending to a back and forth game of drama, suspense and late rallies in a playoff-esque atmosphere on the South Side.

But more importantly, in the bigger picture, it was a hit for the Sox’s playoff chances — with the math firmly against them with 14 games left in the season.

The Guardians reduced their magic number to win the AL Central to 10 games with the win, increasing their division lead to five.

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RELATED: Follow White Sox, Guardians standings, playoff odds

But Cleveland also finished the season series over the Sox with Tuesday’s win, which serves as the first tiebreaker this season (there will be no Game 163).

Simply put, Cleveland’s lead over the Sox is now basically six games and both teams have 14 games left.

Even if the Guardians play .500 ball (7-7) the rest of the way, the White Sox would have to go 13-1 to win the division. It’s 5 1/2 games from a wildcard spot.

“I mean, you’d be lying if you — we know where we stand,” Sox outfielder AJ Pollock said when asked about the math the Sox were dealing with. “We know the situation.

“The goal was to win the first game, you know.”

The White Sox gave themselves the opportunity to do so, despite a slow start from ace Dylan Cease, who later settled to deliver a quality start (six innings, one run), and the offense – which left him with three runs in his final supported inning.

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Both sides held the serve in the ninth inning to force extras, and the Sox escaped the clutches of loss when José Abreu – with two outs and two strikes – tied things up with an RBI-single.

“That’s playoff baseball right there,” Straw said of the tight play. “That’s kind of what you expect in the play-offs. You just have to keep going through those games and struggle.

“Nothing will be easy, so try to win those matches as you can.”

Things unraveled for the Sox in the 11th; the Guardians scored five runs (three earned) off Jake Diekman in a sloppy inning. Diekman threw two wild pitches and the Guardians stole three bases — scoring but one on a throwing error by catcher Seby Zavala.

Miguel Cairo, who was particularly hard on himself after the game and took responsibility for the loss, has preached that during his stint as acting manager of White Sox he had to take things one day at a time.

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LAKE: Cairo takes the blame for the loss of Sox to Guardians

The team has played some of its best baseball this season under Cairo in recent weeks, but time is running out for the Sox, even if they aren’t looking too far ahead.

“I’ve been in situations where the math isn’t right and the key is to just keep it, just to win that next game,” Pollock said. “And the team above you feel that, you know? And if we can make them feel that, it’s a fundamentally healthy ball club, but let’s see how they feel when you get a little closer and they feel us.

“That’s the goal. I have to win the series, win tomorrow to have a chance. Just keep fighting.”

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