CHICAGO -- There's a prevailing feeling going through the White Sox clubhouse, and even throughout the organization, that 25 games to be played against the American League Central during the season's final month will make this a September to remember for the South Siders.
But games such as Wednesday's 18-7 drubbing administered by the Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field could make a division title long since forgotten by the start of those supposedly magical 28 days. A fifth straight loss for the White Sox (52-57) and a win for the Tigers (59-51) over the Rangers raised Detroit's lead to 6 1/2 games over Ozzie Guillen's crew.
"We don't have the luxury to get way behind because they have a pretty good ballclub and they're playing pretty good baseball," said Guillen of the Tigers, after watching his team give up 23 hits. "They have confidence right now, they're playing well and they're playing against a good ballclub and beat them. We just have to worry about us and win the most games we can."
"You saw the game tonight," said White Sox leadoff man Juan Pierre, who raised his average to .277 with two hits. "I don't think we're playing as good as we can, but it just happens. You run into good ballclubs and we haven't matched up against them like we're capable."
There wasn't much of a match on Wednesday from pretty much the first pitch by Gavin Floyd (9-10), as the White Sox slipped to 5-11 in their last 16 home games.
In fairness to Floyd, Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter started the game with bunt singles, but by the time Robinson Cano launched a 1-0 pitch for a three-run homer to right, the Yankees (67-42) had built a 4-0 lead before the White Sox came to the plate. That lead grew to 13-1 in the third, when the Yankees scored seven off Floyd and reliever Will Ohman, whose career-high five-strikeout effort over a career-high 3 2/3 innings proved to be the White Sox highlight of the night.
"Other than that, it wasn't a very good game," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "You give up 13 runs in the first three innings, you are not going to win those games ever."
"Every time you get contributions from all the guys in the lineup, you make it tough to pitch to," Jeter said. "It seemed like all the guys were having good at-bats and hitting balls hard."
All nine starters for the Yankees had at least one hit, but it was Gardner, Jeter and Curtis Granderson serving as the collective driving forces at the top of the order. They combined to finish 12-for-17, with Jeter's five hits matching a career high, scored 10 runs and drove in seven.
To the White Sox credit, they did not rush through this setback down 12 runs and focus on Thursday's series finale. Carlos Quentin's three-run homer against the erratic A.J. Burnett cut the lead to 13-6 in the fourth, and Burnett was unable to qualify for a win when the White Sox scored in the fifth on Pierzynski's double and then put two on with just one out following Alejandro De Aza's third of a career-high four singles.
"We had some good at-bats. We didn't quit," Pierzynski said. "But it just wasn't enough."
"I think we picked the wrong day to score seven runs," Guillen said. "If I had known we'd score seven runs today, I would have bet on the White Sox, and things went a different way."
Floyd carried a 3-0 record and a 0.82 ERA since the All-Star break into Wednesday's debacle. He allowed a career-high 10 runs on nine hits over 2 1/3 innings.
Add the Wednesday lines of Floyd and Burnett together, and it comes out to 6 2/3 innings pitched, 22 hits and 17 earned runs.
"He got some pitches in the middle of the plate, and he got behind in some counts is what I saw," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi of Burnett.
"If that's the worst that's going to happen this year, you just have to put it behind you and move on," said Floyd, who threw five fewer pitches than Ohman's relief total of 59.
Philip Humber will start for the White Sox on Thursday to finish this four-game set, with Ivan Nova starting for New York. This 10-game homestand was deemed as crucial for the White Sox, with general manager Ken Williams even standing pat at Sunday's non-waiver Trade Deadline after dealing Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to Toronto, following three wins in four games against the Tigers and Red Sox.
Since Friday's 3-1 victory over the Red Sox, bringing the team to .500, the White Sox have not won. Facing their biggest deficit since being seven games back on June 5, the White Sox need to worry about the here and now instead of a miraculous September run against their rivals.
"It doesn't matter [who we play]," Pierzynski said. "Every game matters. I don't [care] who we are playing. Boston, New York, Kansas City, Minnesota, Anaheim, whoever it is. You have to try to win games and it's at a point now where every game is critical. We have to find a way to win some."
"Every game we lose is embarrassing," Guillen said. "I think you get to the point where it's like, 'What's going to happen next?'"
"Until I'm mathematically out of it, I always think something can happen," concluded Pierre, showing some faith. "We get a couple of wins and we'll be all right."