Trade-deadline day in baseball should be a time of optimism for teams that consider themselves contenders.
It was anything but that for the White Sox on Sunday.
Not only did general manager Kenny Williams let the deadline come and go without making a significant move, the Sox again looked lethargic offensively in a 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
After a 3-3 start to an important 10-game homestand, the Sox are looking more like pretenders than contenders in the AL Central.
In falling 4 games behind first-place Detroit, the Sox wasted a fine start by Mark Buehrle, who allowed only 5 hits in 6 innings before leaving with a 3-2 lead.
"I would never guess we'd be in the spot we're at right now," Buehrle said after the Sox dropped to 52-54. "I can't foresee the future. I thought in spring training we had a good team and a good chance, but obviously we're not in a good spot right now."
It's not the pitching that has the Sox in that bad spot. Once more it was the offense to blame for a lack of clutch hitting in Sunday's loss.
The Sox got 11 hits but left 12 men on base -- 5 by Adam Dunn alone.
"That's White Sox baseball," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I'm not going to say the offense is not trying, but we cannot make one mistake as a pitcher.
"Every time the manager makes a move and it doesn't work, it seems like a bigger mistake because we don't have that many runs on the board.
"We keep waiting and waiting and waiting to see if we can have that big hit, a bases- loaded double, something like that, just to have some space to make mistakes.
"When you don't score runs in the American League, it's going to be hard to win games. Pitching can take you only so far."
Dunn went 1-for-5 with 3 more strikeouts, leaving his average at .165. Alex Rios drove in a run but went 1-for-5 to drop his average to .207.
The Sox had the bases loaded with one out, 1 run in and a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning, but Carlos Quentin was called out on strikes and Dunn popped softly to first.
"You get to the point where you grind it out and grind it out -- you might snap," Guillen said. "We have, I don't know how many games, I know it's two months.
"Hopefully our offense starts picking it up from now on and makes it easier on the pitching staff and on me. We try to push every button we can, and it's not working."
But this is the team Guillen will have the rest of the way, offensive flaws and all.
"I still believe we've got a chance," Guillen said. "I believe in this ballclub. I believe they can be better than we are right now."
Reliever Jesse Crain (5-3) couldn't get the job done after taking over for Buehrle in the seventh. Two singles and a key passed ball by catcher Tyler Flowers set the stage for Dustin Pedroia's 2-run single that put the Red Sox ahead to stay 4-3.
"Every time you go out there you try to throw zeros and give our offense a chance to score," Buehrle said. "Obviously when we're struggling you go out and say, 'I can't make too many mistakes.'"
Williams still has an opportunity to make a move before the waiver deadline a month from now, but by then it might not matter.