Facing Joe Crede and not Joe Mauer in a Minnesota Twins uniform will seem odd to the White Sox when they play their American League Central rivals this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field.
Much has changed for both sides since the Sox beat the Twins in a one-game tiebreaker to advance to the American League playoffs.
"If all of a sudden you start looking at your average on the third day of the season, that's not going to help you at all," manager Ozzie Guillen said Thursday after the Sox lost 2-1 to the Royals on Coco Crisp's two-run homer off Bobby Jenks in the ninth. "But we're going to hit."
The Sox led in only two of the 27 innings against a stubborn Royals pitching staff that limited them to seven hits over the final two games.
With a lineup that featured rookie Chris Getz and A.J. Pierzynski batting 1-2, the Sox advanced only one runner as far as second base through the first eight innings.
Yet they had a chance to tie or win the game in the ninth until Joakim Soria struck out Wilson Betemit, pinch-hitting for Brian Anderson, with runners at first and second to end the game.
"You can have the same three games we had in July or in the middle of the season, and it might raise an eyebrow, but you just move on," first baseman Paul Konerko said.
Perhaps the Sox will be invigorated by playing their longtime division nemesis with the addition of former Sox fan favorite Crede and not Mauer, one of the best players in the league, who is recovering from a lower back injury.
"You don't want to see anyone get hurt," Konerko said. "Mauer is a big piece of the puzzle, not only offensively but behind the plate with their [pitching] staff. We'll try to take advantage of that and try to get some wins when they don't have him."
As for Crede, "I don't think red looks so good on him," Pierzynski quipped.
The pitchers limited the Royals to six runs in the series but found themselves at fault to a certain degree.
John Danks, for instance, pitched six shutout innings but taxed the patience of his fielders by walking three and hitting a batter.
Jenks admitted he was frustrated that his cut fastball didn't break inside enough to jam Crisp on the game-winning homer.
"Absolutely, especially when your starter goes out there and he works his [rear] off and gives you six strong innings," said Jenks, who worked in a non-save situation and allowed a double to Alberto Callaspo after recording the first out in the ninth.
"Your fellow bullpen mates go out there and shut down some big innings. It stings a little bit still. A lot, actually. You just have to brush it off, and the more important thing is to go out there and get that win [Friday]."
Kansas City Royals squeak by Chicago White Sox 2-1
Bobby Jenks gives up 2-run homer in ninth and Sox rally falls short
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