NEW YORK—The volatile state of the first-place White Sox had manager Ozzie Guillen placing more faith Wednesday night in rookie left-hander Clayton Richard than in his inconsistent offense or struggling bullpen.
Unfortunately for the Sox, Richard's sterling effort was wasted when Xavier Nady hit a two-out, game-tying single and reliever Mike MacDougal hurled a wild pitch that scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of a 5-1 loss to the New York Yankees.
American League Central as Minnesota lost again to Cleveland.
"It's one of those good starts we let get away," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was visibly upset after Nady hit a low-and-outside changeup into center field to spoil Richard's shot at a well-deserved victory.
Richard pitched as calmly as a seasoned veteran before a sellout crowd of 52,671 at Yankee Stadium despite not pitching since Sept. 9, when he allowed five runs in four innings in a loss to Toronto.
Before the game, the Sox had fellow left-hander John Danks available in relief, but Richard was in command from the outset so Danks simply threw in the bullpen in the top of the fifth inning to stay sharp for his scheduled start Sunday at Kansas City.
"[Richard] did a tremendous job," Guillen said. "That was as the reason I left him in the game. Our bullpen is struggling right now, and I try to stay with the starters as long as I can."
Guillen had no intention of pulling Richard before the Nady at-bat but was forced to lift him after Robinson Cano followed with a double for his third hit of the game.
With Ivan Rodriguez at the plate, MacDougal sailed a fastball wide of Pierzynski's glove to score Nady with the go-ahead run. Scott Linebrink's struggles since coming off the disabled list continued when he allowed home runs to Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez in the eighth.
"We have to be better out of the bullpen if we want to win this thing," Guillen said.
The offense failed to give Richard (2-5) a large cushion. The warning signs came from the start, after Orlando Cabrera capped an 11-pitch at-bat with a double off Phil Hughes to start the game.
Cabrera was stranded at second during a 33-pitch inning, and the Sox mustered only one run in four innings off Hughes, who was pulled after 89 pitches. The Sox were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Four times the Sox had a runner at second base with less than two outs, but they scored only once.
That came in the third when Cabrera hit his second double, moved to third on Dewayne Wise's sacrifice bunt and scored on Jermaine Dye's grounder to third.
"If we want to win it, we have to score more than one," Guillen said of why he's reluctant to play for one run early. It's not going to be easy from now on, just winning by one run."