A sluggish start, sad ending

The load keeps getting heavier for the White Sox's offense.

Despite a five-RBI performance by Jermaine Dye, the Sox let a promising comeback victory slip away Sunday as Baltimore scored twice off closer Bobby Jenks in the bottom of the ninth inning to hand the Sox a frustrating 8-7 loss.

The recurring inability of the starting pitchers, particularly Javier Vazquez, to pitch deep into games has taxed a once-effective bullpen and concerns manager Ozzie Guillen.

"It's hard for a bullpen when it's 104 degrees and your starting pitcher gives you only five innings two days in a row," Guillen said one day after Jon Garland pitched only five innings because of a sinus infection. "[The relievers] have been throwing without a rest. … We need better effort out of our starting rotation. If we get seven or eight innings from our starting pitchers, [which] we're supposed to get, our bullpen will be nasty.

"I don't care how good a bullpen is. If the starting rotation doesn't do what they're supposed to do, it's not easy for any bullpen."

Vazquez lasted only 5 1/3 innings and was pulled during the Orioles' three-run sixth.

"I don't have any choice," Guillen said of sending Vazquez out to start the sixth. "We did the right thing."

But staked to a 4-2 lead on Dye's two-out, two-run single, Vazquez gave up the lead immediately.

Jay Gibbons hit Vazquez's second pitch of the sixth over the right-field wall. Vazquez raised his arms after the homer, which displeased Guillen.

"That's not the body language I like to see," Guillen said. "All of sudden, he started feeling sorry for himself. I know it's frustrating when you're struggling, but that's when you have to step it up."

Said Vazquez: "What can I say? It's the same thing that's happened before."

One out later, Vazquez drilled Corey Patterson with a pitch and was pulled after Javy Lopez singled up the middle.

Opponents are batting .378 against him after the second time through the order. Just as discouraging as Vazquez's downfall was Neal Cotts' ineffectiveness.

Cotts, who gave up a two-run homer to Miguel Tejada on Saturday, surrendered a game-tying RBI single to left-handed hitter Nick Markakis and an RBI double to Brandon Fahey.

The Orioles added another run in the seventh off Cotts. Tejada hit an infield single, went to second on first baseman Ross Gload's throwing error and scored on Jeff Conine's sacrifice fly off David Riske.

Cotts has allowed 14 of 47 inherited runners to score this season.

Dye's two-run single in the sixth and his three-run homer in the eighth went to waste quickly in the bottom of the ninth when the Orioles mounted a one-out rally that started when Tejada was hit by a pitch and was capped when Lopez hit a single up the middle. It was Jenks' second blown save in 30 chances.

"There was a broken-bat single by Gibbons and Conine poked a hit to right field," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Bobby has been so good that when he blows a lead, then it's a major deal."

Jenks, who had a long discussion with Pierzynski before the game, declined to speak to a pool reporter after the game and walked away.

The Sox wasted another remarkable offensive performance, this time without Jim Thome, who was given the day off. They scored 26 runs in the three-game series. Pierzynski was a big part of it. He has eight hits in his last two games.

"We're getting closer to where we need to be," he said.