Chicago – There was no hiding the disappointment.
The Tigers took two walk-off gut punches Sunday from a White Sox team that is dealing with internal issues and has all but cashed in their chips on the 2016 season.
The day after general manager Al Avila essentially gave the club a vote of confidence, the Tigers lost 4-3 on a two-out walk-off single by Adam Eaton off Justin Wilson in the ninth inning of the suspended game from Saturday night.
They then lost the series finale 5-4 on Melky Cabrera’s ninth-inning smash past a diving third baseman Nick Castellanos off Bruce Rondon. That after the Tigers had hit three home runs off White Sox closer David Robertson in the top of the ninth to tie the score.
“It (stinks), there’s no way around it,” Castellanos said. “We battled back both games but we were unable to close it out. We were really high, then really low.”
Avila had said on Saturday that he didn’t expect to buy or sell at the trade deadline, believing once healthy, this club had a chance to make a playoff run.
“I think this team is going to continue to win,” Avila said. “Obviously, we've got to keep playing well… These guys have to step up to the challenge and play well and win some games. If they do, we will continue to move forward and get into the playoffs with this team.”
It’s not happening. The Tigers are 5-5 since the All-Star break and missed a chance to gain serious ground on the first-place Indians, who were swept this weekend in Baltimore.
“We split a series, that’s what it is,” Castellanos said. “We’ve got to look forward. We can’t dwell or be (angry) with what happened. We can only change what’s going to happen.”
There is no denying the team’s battle level. They hit a lot of balls hard off White Sox starter Jose Quintana with very little to show for it — three hits, to be precise — for 6 2/3 innings.
The White Sox had scored four times in the first two innings against Anibal Sanchez. Pesky Eaton continued his season-long torment of the Tigers. After his winning hit in the suspended game, he singled and scored in the first and hit a two-out, three-run home run in the second.
He has 14 hits in 26 at-bats against the Tigers this season.
“I would have liked to give our team a better opportunity to win this game,” said Sanchez, who battled through six innings and didn’t allow another run after the second. “The guys did a really good job coming back.”
The Tigers started hitting home runs off the White Sox bullpen in the eighth. Andrew Romine hit his first of the year off Nate Jones to get it started. The lightning struck in the ninth, and not the atmospheric stuff that halted play the night before.
Robertson had allowed three home runs all season. Then Castellanos greeted him with bomb to left to start the inning. With two outs, pinch-hitters Tyler Collins and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit back-to-back home runs into the Tigers bullpen in right field.
“We fought the whole way,” Jose Iglesias said. “We never gave up. When Salty hit that home run, it was huge. It was good to see.”
That euphoria lasted three batters. Eaton — who else? — walked to start the bottom of the ninth. He went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tim Anderson. Cabrera whacked the first pitch he saw past Castellanos to end the game.
“It was hard hit to my right,” Castellanos said. “Could I have made (the play)? Probably. But I didn’t.”
Romine, who normally would replace Castellanos at third base late in close games, got the start in center field.
“It’s part of the game,” Justin Upton said. “We did all we could do and we gave ourselves a chance to win. We battled our butts off, just didn’t come out on top.”
Losing two of three to the cellar-dwelling Twins. Losing two of four to the beleaguered White Sox. It’s not a formula for getting back into the race.
Now they go to Boston, which holds the first wild-card spot in the American League. The Tigers are 6 games behind the Indians, four games out of the second wild card spot and 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.
“We just have to continue to play good baseball,” Sanchez said. “Baseball is unpredictable. We play hard. Everybody on the field plays hard. They want to win. I want to win. I want to pitch better, like I used to.
“But everybody has to be together. Sometimes we pitch good and we don’t hit. Sometimes we hit good and don’t pitch. If we put everything together, then we will see better results.”