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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / AMERICAN LEAGUE | CHICAGO vs. SEATTLE
: NOTES

Hitless Thomas Is Left With an Empty Feeling

October 07, 2000|Associated Press

SEATTLE — Frank Thomas probably won't remember the 95 wins the Chicago White posted in the regular season. More likely, the number zero will stick in his mind.

"I've been wanting for this for seven years," he said after his White Sox were swept by the Seattle Mariners in their AL playoff series Friday. "This is the only thing I'm missing in my career--to get to the top."

The White Sox finished the regular season with the best record in the AL at 95-67 and also scored a major league-leading 978 runs. Along the way, Thomas put up MVP-candidate numbers, batting .328 with 43 home runs and 143 RBIs.

But in three games against the Mariners, the White Sox scored only seven runs on 17 hits, for an average of 2.3 runs a game, well below their regular-season average of just over six runs. None of those hits belonged to Thomas.

"O for 9 with no strikeouts," he said. "I'm just not swinging a hot bat, and it hurt us."

Thomas' teammates in the heart of the batting order weren't much help. In the series, Chicago's 3-6 hitters were four for 42 (.095).

Mike Cameron, who played for the White Sox from 1995-98 and came to Seattle from Cincinnati in the deal for Ken Griffey Jr., said the White Sox didn't hit poorly--they just hit to the wrong places.

"They hit the ball hard, but it seems like it was always stopped by one of our guys," he said. "I think it took a lot out of them."

Thomas offered another explanation for the lack of hitting by both teams Friday: the shadows, which shifted from home plate toward the mound as the game went on.

"That's the worst in baseball I've ever seen," Thomas said. "Every guy that came to first base said the same thing."

Thomas and his teammates say they accomplished a lot this season, beating expectations considering their modest $32-million payroll.

"We made a name for ourselves. People now are going to start to respect us," White Sox starter James Baldwin said.

Not everyone was as upbeat as Baldwin.

"This is the worst feeling for a bunch of guys that had the year that we had," shortstop Jose Valentin added.

*

White Sox Manager Jerry Manuel showed up at Safeco Field without his beard. He said he decided to shave because Thomas asked him to.

"Frank Thomas' father said we hadn't been hitting since I had the beard is the word I got from Frank," Manuel said before Game 3. "I felt that it would take the pressure off the team."

Manuel said he wasn't superstitious.

"I believe in other things," he said.

Manuel began growing the beard during the last week of the regular season and hoped to keep it during the playoffs.

*

Manuel inserted veteran designated hitter Harold Baines, who appeared once as a pinch-hitter in the first two games, into his starting lineup and moved Thomas to first base for Friday's game.

He also dropped left fielder Carlos Lee, who was one for eight in the first two games, from No. 5 in the batting order to No. 8.

THE SERIES

Game 1: Seattle 7, Chicago 4 (10 innings)

Game 2: Seattle 5, Chicago 2

Friday: Seattle 2, Chicago 1

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