The Chicago White Sox needed a swing to have a real chance at beating the Cleveland Guardians in the American League Central.

Instead, they were swept away.

And now the team that was aiming for the World Series is on the verge of missing the postseason.

The Sox entered Friday’s series opener against the Detroit Tigers trailing the Guardians by seven games — eight given the Guardians own the tiebreaker and 12 remaining after losing three straight at Guaranteed Rate Field.

There was a playoff-like buzz on Tuesday with The Guardians won 10-7 in 11 innings. The win secured a crucial lead in the tiebreaker for the Guardians.

The Sox never recovered, losing the game 8-2 uninspiring performance on Wednesday and seeing the late rally to be held on Thursday at a A 4-2 loss.

The players were looking at the bigger picture.

“We had flashes of really good baseball, but it wasn’t consistent enough,” right fielder Gavin Sheets said after Thursday’s loss. “It definitely doesn’t come down to these three games. I think we’ll all agree that we should have played better baseball, and that’s frustrating.”

The Sox have consistently played inconsistently for most of the season.

But they had a chance to get within one game of the division going into the Guardians streak if they won all three. And the task was not completed.

Here are three reasons why the streak went away from the Sox.

1. Guardians made the most of their opportunities.

Whether it was an outfielder who fouled out, as in the case of Sox left fielder AJ Pollock on Tuesday, or an outfielder failing to turn into a potential inning-ending double play, as was the case with Sox third baseman Yoan Mankada in Wednesday , the guardians were ready to capitalize on the chance.

In the second inning on Tuesday, Andres Gimenez took third after Pollock went down chasing a ball. Jimenez scored on a sacrifice fly.

The Sox scored three runs in the sixth to take a 3-1 lead, only for the Guardians to tie the game in the seventh when Jimmy Lambert scored in the top of the inning.

The Sox rallied in the 10th, matching the Sentinels’ two runs with two against first-rate Emmanuel Claes. But the Guardians rallied for five runs in the 11th, with the team’s final run coming when Amed Rosario took third and scored on a throwing error by catcher Sebi Zavala.

Acting manager Miguel Cairo blamed himself after the game, but Pollack was quick to say that was not the case.

“I had a funky (defensive) game in the (second),” Pollack said. “I tried to play aggressive and hit a weird spot and it was probably a double and it ended up being a triple and the run that ended up scoring was a big run.

“The pair missed opportunities throughout the game. A couple of defensive mistakes. It was a shooting from our side for sure.”

2. The Sox couldn’t slow down the Guards on the bases.

Rosario set the tone Wednesday by taking third and beating Mancada’s throw to first. Rosario didn’t score, but it was an example of the pressure the guardians bring during each game.

“You have to be very careful with every ball they hit because they have very good speed,” Mancada said through an interpreter after Wednesday’s game. “You have to try to attack because you know they have speed and they can beat you.”

The Guardians have found ways to produce runs against tough pitchers like Johnny Cueto, who allowed four runs — three earned — on eight hits in six innings Thursday.

Jose Ramirez reached on an infield hit in the first, moved to third on a single and scored on Gimenez’s single.

Two innings later, Rosario reached on an infield single, moved to third when Cueto threw wildly on a pickoff attempt and scored on Ramirez’s sacrifice fly.

“They’re running and hustling,” Cueto said through a translator. “They play hard. And they put the ball in play.”

3. Tristan McKenzie and Shane Bieber cooled the Sox bats.

McKenzie struck out Sheets and Andrew Vaughn to start the second inning Wednesday.

It was the start of another big outing for McKenzie against the Sox. He struck out two batters in six of eight innings and finished with 13. McKenzie struck out 14 for the Sox on Aug. 19 at Progressive Field.

“He knows how to go against us and we have to tip our hat,” Mancada said.

Bieber didn’t have big strikeout numbers Thursday, finishing with five, but he did limit the Sox to seven hits, including five singles. The Sox did not walk for the second straight game.

After scoring 11 runs against the Tigers in Detroit on Sunday, the Sox had 11 in three games against the Guardians.

Cairo said before Friday’s game that the key to recovering from a tough streak is not to change.

“We are professionals, we have professional baseball players,” Cairo said. “We have to play hard. It’s not over. You never know what can happen. They can go and lose 10 of 12. They have to play Tampa, they have to play Texas, and you don’t know what you’re going to get with Kansas City. They have a good, young team.

“We just have to keep playing and play until the end.”


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