CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox's (search) offense looked a bit rusty, even if they insisted a three-day layoff had no bearing on their performance in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
They had trouble getting down bunts when they needed them, couldn't steal their way into scoring position or deliver run-scoring hits against the Anaheim Angels (search) -- a team that was supposed to be weary after two long trips.
"Anytime you don't hit well and don't throw up a lot of offense, it looks flat," Paul Konerko (search) said after a 3-2 loss Tuesday night. "It doesn't matter if you had days off or if it is the middle of the season or whatever.
"We didn't play well and we lost by a run. If we tighten up our game a little bit, it will be better for us. That's what we do, why we are here and we've been successful doing that all year."
While running up an AL-best 99 wins and then sweeping defending champion Boston in the first round, the White Sox were able to manufacture runs while also showing power with 200 homers.
Joe Crede (search) hit a solo homer off Paul Byrd and A.J. Pierzynski had a run-scoring single, but there were numerous missed opportunities for a team that has squandered home-field advantage in its first ALCS (search) appearance since 1993.
"We hit a lot of balls hard. We had some chances, we just didn't get them in," Pierzynski said. "I thought we were fine at the plate. We just didn't get a big hit."
Jose Contreras (search) gave up three runs and seven hits in 8 1-3 innings, good enough to win on most nights. Instead, he took his first loss since Aug. 15 after running off eight straight wins to close the regular season and then beating the Red Sox (search) in the division series opener a week ago.
"I feel bad for Jose. He pitched great and we didn't come through for him," Konerko said.
For example: Needing a run and a big hit in the eighth, Konerko flied out with two on.
Needing a sacrifice in the ninth after Carl Everett (search) reached on an error to start the inning, Aaron Rowand (search) bunted into a force and a potential rally fizzled. Crede then struck out with a runner on to end the game.
"I felt we were ready to come back," Crede said. "We just weren't able to capitalize, not able to execute when the opportunity came along."
The White Sox had speedy leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik (search) on twice but couldn't get him around; once he was thrown out trying to steal.
They tried a little bit of everything from No. 3 hitter Jermaine Dye bunting and popping out to start the sixth, and Pierzynski trying unsuccessfully to steal in the seventh when he apparently misread a sign.
"(Dye) tried to get on base, make things happen and when you're batting third, he thought the third baseman was playing back," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (search) said. "He just wanted to make something happen to start the inning."
Pierzynski, who didn't steal a base in the regular season, said he thought a play was on when he took off for second.
"I saw hit-and-run," he said. "Did I miss a sign? I guess I did. ... That's what happens."
Juan Uribe (search) reached on an infield single, starting the eighth, but Podsednik couldn't get down a bunt and then was called out on strikes.
Contreras simply didn't get the offensive support he needed.
He gave up a long homer to Garret Anderson (search) in the second and two more runs in the third on a pair of run-scoring infield balls -- a single to third and a fielder's choice when he tried to start a double play on a comebacker instead of throwing to the plate.
"If the ball had been hit a bit slower and I didn't think I had a chance to turn a double play, I would have probably gone home," Contreras said.
"But we've turned double plays all season long and can't change anything you've done this season. If we turned that double play, we might be talking about something different."