CHICAGO - For two months the Chicago White Sox had been ahead or tied for the lead in the AL Central. Now, with just a week left, they're looking up at the Detroit Tigers.
Their pitching was wild Wednesday night, issuing 12 walks in a 6-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians that knocked them into second place for the first time since July 23. Losers of seven of their last eight, the White Sox now have seven games left to regroup or a successful season will end in the ultimate disappointment with no playoffs.
Detroit, which beat Kansas City 5-4 Wednesday night, has a one-game lead.
"You're talking about a game lead, two-game, everything is so fragile. You talk about the momentum swings that can happen. This is one of them, the wrong way," Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko said.
"It doesn't mean in two days it doesn't swing the other way ... It was tough out there tonight. We didn't deserve to win that game. This is the big leagues. You got to play all nine innings, you got to play well to beat a team."
The White Sox had a 3-1 lead after the first inning, but they couldn't hold off the Indians because their pitchers couldn't throw strikes. And for the second straight game, their starter didn't get out of the fourth inning.
"You can't win a game walking 12 guys. It seemed like every inning there were guys all over the bases," Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "We have to find a way to win games. We jump out to a lead and we have to shut them down. Tonight we weren't able to do that."
Shin-Soo Choo had a go-ahead RBI grounder in the seventh off Matt Thornton (4-9) and Vinny Rottino hit his first homer for Cleveland in the eighth off Brett Myers. The Indians -- who are 21-50 since the All-Star break -- won two of three at U.S. Cellular Field.
"We played a pretty good series, we had a lot of good at-bats today, for the third day in a row we're able to play well against a left-handed pitcher, which we had struggled the whole year," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We put together a lot of good at-bats and ended up with 12 walks. That really helped us out."
Lou Marson drew his third walk of the game with one out in the seventh and after a double by Ezequiel Carrera, Choo hit an RBI grounder to first.
Alexei Ramirez's two-out RBI double in the fifth put Chicago ahead 4-3.
But Choo doubled to open the sixth and then the Indians drew three straight walks -- the final one on a 12-pitch at-bat by Carlos Santana against reliever Nate Jones -- to force in the tying run. With the bases still loaded, Thornton got Travis Hafner to hit into a 1-2-3 double play.
Tony Sipp (1-2) pitched one-third of an inning for the win and Chris Perez finished in the ninth for his 38th save in 42 chances. He issued the Indians' sixth walk of the game and after a throwing error by shortstop Brent Lillibridge, he retired Konerko on a fly to shallow left to end it.
Chicago now plays four at home against another team still in the running for the postseason, the Tampa Bay Rays, and then finishes the season with three at Cleveland.
"Obviously, now you need help. Even if you win out, they can win out, and it doesn't work," Konerko said. "That's about it."
The Tigers finish a series with Kansas City at home on Thursday and then close the season with six road games against the Twins and the Royals.
Pierzynski, who played on Chicago's World Series-winning team with Konerko in 2005, said the White Sox's approach will be the same over the final week.
"There's no pressing. I don't think anything is going to change," he said. "I don't see guys coming in tomorrow nervous as they can be or trying too hard."