It was a homestand to forget for the Chicago White Sox.
Six games. Six losses.
And to top it off, the team’s pursuit of the AL Central title is officially over after Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers in front of 33,549 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Cleveland Guardians, who began the Sox’s slide Tuesday, are division champions.
“It’s obviously very disappointing,” Sox starter Dylan Cease said.
The Sox began the season as the popular pick to not only win the division, but to compete for a shot at the World Series. Now they are on the verge of missing the playoffs completely, trailing the Seattle Mariners by 7 1/2 games with nine to go for the final wild-card spot.
“We definitely didn’t play up to our ability,” Cease said.
Asked about the week, which featured three losses to the Guardians and three to the Tigers, acting manager Miguel Cairo described Sunday as “the worst.”
“That’s not acceptable,” Cairo said. “That’s not baseball. That’s not what the Chicago White Sox are about. It was terrible.”
Asked if it was about execution or effort, Cairo said, “You can put it either way. Execution. Effort. Everything.”
The Sox squandered a strong outing from the AL Cy Young Award candidate Cease, who allowed four hits in six scoreless innings.
The Tigers tied the game with a run in the seventh and scored three more in the eighth to complete the sweep.
“You’ve got to come back Tuesday (in Minnesota),” Cairo said. “So they better bring some effort. It was kind of embarrassing.
“You saw for six series, the way you are supposed to play the game. And you saw (Sunday), it was totally different team. There’s nine more games. Got to finish strong and hard.”
The Sox were outscored 16-6 in the Tigers series.
“If you watch (Sunday’s) game, that was bad, besides Cease, (he) pitched really good and kept us in the game,” Cairo said.
Cease described his outing as “all right.”
“I want my fastball command to be better, but I did a good job grinding,” said Cease, who had five strikeouts and three walks. “It was one of those grind games. It was good enough.”
Cease began the day second in the majors in ERA and opponents average, fourth in strikeouts per nine innings, and fifth in strikeouts.
He received defensive help in the second with a leaping catch by left fielder AJ Pollock at the wall to rob the Tigers’ Kerry Carpenter. Cease made the big pitch in a big spot in the fifth, getting Javier Báez to pop out to catcher Seby Zavala with the bases loaded for the final out.
The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth. Cease induced a double play, as Jonathan Schoop hit a grounder to third, where Yoán Moncada made a throw to the plate to get the lead runner and Zavala fired to first to get Schoop.
Jeimer Candelario flied out to center as the Sox maintained a 1-0 lead.
“He’s been pitching like that all year round and it was good to see him give us a chance to win,” Cairo said of Cease.
The Tigers tied the game on an RBI double by Victor Reyes against reliever Reynaldo López. They scored three runs in the eighth against reliever Kendall Graveman.
After the disastrous week, the Sox are left to ponder what went wrong in a lost season.
“It was tough,” Cease said of the week. “After a disappointing season, for it to be sort of capped off by this, it’s tough. I still like us to finish strong with our last nine.
“We’re definitely disappointed. We take the game serious. We compete, so when you compete and it doesn’t work out, it’s frustrating. We’re disappointed, but we got a lot of professional guys here, a lot of guys with a lot of big league time. We’re not sulking. We’re showing up to play the rest of the games.”