Todd Ritchie entered the fifth inning Saturday against Cleveland with a perfect game, giving the White Sox hope that their problems were in the rearview mirror. But Ritchie never made it into the sixth, and the team's problems simply multiplied.
The Indians scored seven runs with two outs in an eight-run fifth, leading to an 8-4 comeback win in front of 37,707 at Jacobs Field.
Ritchie (3-7) suffered his fifth straight loss, while the sagging Sox lost their sixth straight to fall to one game over .500 at 28-27.
"I'm human and I'm going to struggle," Ritchie said. "It seems when you struggle, things are magnified. But you find out who's going to hang with you and who's not during times like these."
Saturday's game was another in a series of frustrating losses for the Sox. Ritchie retired the first 13 batters he faced and needed only 45 pitches to get through four innings. The Sox had built a 3-0 lead on Aaron Rowand's RBI double off Danys Baez (5-4) in the second, a solo homer by Sandy Alomar Jr. in the fourth and Magglio Ordonez's run-scoring double in the fifth.
But with one out in the fifth, third baseman Jose Valentin committed a throwing error on an Ellis Burks' grounder, opening the door for the eight-run inning. Valentin didn't have his feet set and threw it over Paul Konerko's head at first base.
"[Ritchie] had plenty of time to make his pitches [after the error]," Valentin said. "We were winning 3-0. It's something I have to live with."
Ricky Gutierrez doubled down the left-field line for Cleveland's first hit, bringing home the first run. After a two-out walk to Einar Diaz, Chris Magruder singled home another run, and Ritchie walked Matt Lawton. Omar Vizquel singled home a pair to put the Indians ahead 4-3, but Ritchie appeared to be out of the inning when Royce Clayton went into the hole and nabbed Burks' grounder.
No such luck. Ray Durham dropped the throw at second for an error, allowing another run to score.
"He might have flinched there or taken his eye off the ball," manager Jerry Manuel said.
Jim Thome followed with a 438-foot three-run homer to left, and the Indians suddenly had a commanding 8-3 lead. Ritchie wound up throwing 44 pitches in the fifth, or one fewer than the first four innings combined. All eight runs off him were unearned.
Thome has four home runs over his last three games, averaging 457 feet per shot.
"We knew that with Chicago coming in we had to play well," Thome said. "Our offense is starting to come around. That's a positive sign. Hopefully it can catch up with our pitching."
The Sox, with a 13-20 record since April 25, are only one game ahead of the Indians. After hitting .294 in April, the team average is down to .273 and the offense has shown no comeback potential.
"No one can point any fingers," Frank Thomas said. "We're all playing terribly. We've just got to figure out a way to patch it together and play together and win together. Earlier it was so easy to do. Now it's getting ugly."