White Sox fall further behind Guardians with loss in crucial opener

Math, time working against Sox after loss 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 go-ahead, two-run double into the left field corner in the 11th inning Tuesday.

After three more runs had been scored, boos from the remaining White Sox fans in the announced crowd of 23,243 echoed around the ballpark, and the Guardians wrapped up a 10-7 win not long after that.

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

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

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

RELATED: Tracking White Sox, Guardians standings, playoff odds

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

Put simply: Cleveland’s lead over the Sox is now effectively six games, and both teams have 14 games remaining.

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. They’re 5 1/2 games out of a wild card spot.

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

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

The White Sox put themselves in position to do so, despite a slow start by ace Dylan Cease, who later settled in to deliver a quality start (six innings, one run), and the offense — which backed him with three runs in his final innings.

Both sides held serve in the ninth inning to force extras, and the Sox escaped from the claws of defeat when José Abreu — with two outs and two strikes — evened things out with an RBI single.

“That’s playoff baseball, right there,” Straw said of the tight game. “That’s kind of what you expect in the playoffs. Just gotta stick through those games and battles.

“Nothing’s gonna be easy, so try to win those games however 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 on one after a throwing error by catcher Seby Zavala.

Miguel Cairo, who was particularly hard on himself postgame and took responsibility for the loss, has preached taking things one day at a time during his stint as the White Sox acting manager.

MORE: Cairo takes blame for Sox’ gutting loss to Guardians

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

“I’ve been in situations where the math doesn’t seem right and the key is just to keep, just to win that next game,” Pollock said. “And the team above you feels that, you know? And if we can get them to feel that, it’s a fundamentally sound ballclub, but let’s see what they feel like when you get a little closer and they feel us.

“That’s the goal. Gotta win the series, gotta win tomorrow in order to have a chance of that. Just keep fighting.”

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