CHICAGO -- It didn't get a lot of attention, but there was a baseball game here yesterday. And the 3-1 defeat the Toronto Blue Jays pinned on the White Sox was the third loss of the day for the sports fans of Chicago.
On a day when Michael Jordan confirmed his retirement from the Bulls and the Cubs announced the firing of manager Jim Lefebvre, the White Sox virtually played themselves out of the American League Championship Series. Hardly anybody noticed -- which was the best thing that happened to the White Sox in the last two days.
The AL West champions seemed even more inept in yesterday's loss than they were in a 7-3 setback in Game 1. That's generally what happens when teams don't hit or catch the ball.
Now trailing the best-of-seven AL Championship Series, two games to none, the White Sox find themselves in a position from which no team has escaped in the 25 years of division playoffs. No team has lost the first two games at home and come back to win the pennant.
"It's not something we can't overcome," said White Sox manager Gene Lamont, ignoring the odds, "but we have to come up with some big hits. They [the Blue Jays] have just gotten better clutch hitting than we have. Hopefully, that will change when we get to Toronto."
That's where this series is headed after the Blue Jays completed a two-game sweep at Comiskey Park. They took advantage of two errors by the White Sox and a gritty six-inning performance by Dave Stewart to take a commanding lead.
Stewart raised his career AL Championship Series record to 7-0, allowing only four hits and one run in six innings yesterday. His last inning was his most impressive as he pitched his way out of a bases-loaded, none-out situation.
That inning typified what the White Sox have gone through in the DTC first two games. Frank Thomas, who has reached base eight times (five walks, three singles) in nine plate appearances, and Robin Ventura opened the sixth with back-to-back singles off Stewart.
Ellis Burks then drew a walk -- while trying to execute a sacrifice -- bunt and Stewart was in trouble up to his frown. But Dan Pasqua flied to shallow center field; Lance Johnson, after fouling off four 1-and-2 pitches, popped to third baseman Ed Sprague; and after Stewart went to a 3-and-0 count, pinch-hitter Warren Newson hit a bouncer to Stewart to end the inning.
"He [Stewart] knew exactly what he wanted to do in that situation," Lamont said. "We had left-handed hitters against him, but we couldn't get any runs across."
The Blue Jays had taken the lead with two runs in the fourth inning -- the eighth and ninth (of a total of 10) runs they've scored with two outs in the first two games. "Any time you get a lot of two-out hits, you're going to win games," said losing pitcher Alex Fernandez, who was victimized by two unearned runs. "The bottom of their lineup did a good job and so did their defense."
The White Sox could not say the same. The Blue Jays' first run came as a result of an error by Pasqua on Ricky Henderson's grounder to open the game. A single by Devon White and Roberto Alomar's forcing grounder got the run home.
In the fourth, it was a double by Paul Molitor (six hits in the first two games) with two outs that put the Blue Jays in motion. Tony Fernandez followed with a single to left on which Tim Raines should have had a play on Molitor at the plate.
But Raines unleashed a rainbow throw that not only missed the cutoff man, but soared over the head of catcher Ron Karkovice. Fernandez moved up on the throw and then scored when Pat Borders' slow infield roller went for a hit, and second baseman Joey Cora complicated matters by throwing wildly for an error.
As it turned out, those two runs were all Stewart and two relievers would need. "I was real, real proud of the way I pitched," said Stewart. "I threw a nice pitch with a fastball to Pasqua, and when I saw Johnson was out in front [with his swing], I threw him an off-speed forkball."
He got careless with Newson, falling behind 3-and-0, but recovered with three straight fastballs -- one down the middle for a called strike, one that was fouled off and the one that ended up dribbling into his glove for the third out.
"He's pitched a lot like that on sheer guts for us this year," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said of Stewart. "I didn't think about taking him out [with the bases loaded] because he likes to pitch in situations like that."
But, once he was out of the sixth inning, Stewart was finished. He turned the game over to left-hander Al Leiter, who worked two scoreless innings, before Duane Ward pitched the ninth to pick up a save.
The loss left the White Sox with only a scant hope of surviving the AL Championship Series. The good news was that hardly anybody was talking about them last night.
They ran a distant third to two guys no longer wearing Chicago uniforms.
Blue Jays-White Sox scoring