SEATTLE -- The White Sox are in first place, yet they are far from cruising.
After Bobby Jenks' second last-inning meltdown in four days cost stunned Chicago another win in Wednesday night's 2-1, 11-inning loss to the woeful Seattle Mariners, manager Ozzie Guillen put the closer's job up for grabs.
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"All options are open now," Guillen said after the White Sox lost for the fourth time in six games and had their lead over victorious Minnesota in the AL Central trimmed to 2½ games. "I get paid to win games. ... I put the guy in with the best shot."He thinks Jenks has lost his velocity. Jenks disputed that.Guillen then mentioned All-Star reliever Matt Thornton, former Mariners closer J.J. Putz -- who has a team-record streak of 25 consecutive scoreless appearances going -- and Sergio Santos as potential replacement for Jenks, who has blown two of 22 chances and has an ERA of 5.09."That's going to be the options," Guillen said. "Hopefully we will put Bobby back in situations when we see him start throwing the ball the way he can throw. Then we'll move him back to be the closer."Franklin Gutierrez's two-run single off Jenks in the bottom of the 11th sent the Mariners to just their fourth win in 18 games. They were the first runs Seattle had scored in 27 innings.Ageless Omar Vizquel looked like the 43-year-old star after singling home Gordon Beckham with two outs in the top of the 11th against Brandon League (7-6) for the game's first run.But Jenks (1-3), who surrendered four runs without getting an out in the ninth Sunday against the Twins, allowed a bunt single up the first-base line by Seattle's Jack Wilson leading off the bottom of the inning.Ichiro Suzuki sacrificed him to second. Wilson advanced to third on a line-drive single by Chone Figgins, who stole second.Alex Rios' throw home on Gutierrez's single to center was late and cut off in the infield. Figgins slid home and then ran into the infield to join his teammates as they mobbed Gutierrez.Seattle got eight innings of two-hit ball from Felix Hernandez."Tremendous win," said Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, who was ejected in the top of the ninth for arguing a safe call on a stolen base by Chicago's Juan Pierre.Chicago lost for the fourth time in six games and blew a chance for its first three-game sweep in Seattle since July 30-Aug. 1, 1993.Guillen noted it took strong defense to help Jenks to a scoreless finish of Chicago's 4-0 victory Tuesday.Jenks thinks he's the same pitcher he was while converting 15 consecutive save chances from May 9 until Wednesday."I feel strong, like I have the following month and a half, two months," Jenks said. "The other day in Minnesota, that was on me. But today, I felt good and made pitches. They just got hit today. ... It's part of the job."The team battled their butts off all game. Days like that is when you feel the worst."Hernandez was cruising toward his fifth complete game -- plus one nine-inning outing -- in seven starts when Wakamatsu unexpectedly pulled him after eight innings and 93 pitches. It was his lowest pitch count since May 7, and the ace had allowed just two singles and retired his last 17 batters. He struck out eight and walked no one."Felix, he maybe had the best stuff I've ever seen," Wakamatsu said. "But it's this time of the year that you've got to protect him."Hernandez was not happy in the dugout when Wakamatsu stopped him from going back on the field. And the $78 million ace was still fuming after the game."Go talk to Wak. Talk to somebody," Hernandez huffed. "No, I don't understand. I don't worry about the innings. I feel good. I feel strong. What do you want me to say? Talk to the manager."Closer David Aardsma hit Pierre with a pitch and walked Vizquel with one out in the ninth. But he got Alex Rios to fly out and then struck out Paul Konerko on a high pitch. Konerko appeared to check his swing, but first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg said he did not. Konerko tossed his bat high toward the dugout in disgust.
Quentin rested his bruised right hand for the third consecutive game, but took batting practice. Quentin, his 19 home runs and 64 RBIs are expected back for the first time in five days in Friday night's series opener at Oakland. ... Russell Branyan missed his second consecutive game with back spasms that Wakamatsu thinks will keep Seattle's only consistent home run threat out a couple more days, into a weekend series against Boston.