Could Contreras become the first Sox pitcher to lose 20 since 1975?

Nathaniel Whalen

You name ’em, he’s lost ’em.

Close ones, blowouts, one-run games, near comebacks, and even games that were tied when he left.

This year, Jose Contreras has found a way to lose pretty much every type of game there is.

Even though he pitched well enough — four runs allowed in six innings — and the White Sox nearly came back, the right-hander still took the loss Wednesday as the Sox fell 7-6 to Kansas City at U.S. Cellular Field.

That defeat gives him a career- and major league-worst 16 this season and, with seven possible starts remaining, makes him a very real candidate to become the Sox first 20-game loser since Wilbur Wood in 1975.

“That’s part to the game,” said manager Ozzie Guillen, whose Sox took two of three from Kansas City. “When you lose 20, you weren’t that bad. Either the manager was dumb to keep you out there or you pitched just good enough to lose 20. It’s two choices, and I hope it’s that the manager is dumb enough to keep sending you out there.”

What makes it all the more incredible is that Contreras is the same pitcher who was lights-out and won 17 consecutive regular-season decisions between August 2005 and July 2006.

“I’ve always been a winner — in Cuba, here in the States, I’ve always won games,” said Contreras, who is 6-16 with a 6.18 ERA and has lost his last nine starts. “Just a bad year, and hopefully, real soon I’ll turn it around. A pitch here, a pitch there would have been different, but I’ll keep on working. I’m happy, I’m healthy — that’s the main thing, I feel healthy.”

He pitched well enough Wednesday, but was doomed by four early runs.

Kansas City took a 2-0 lead on Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly and Ross Gload’s RBI single in the top of the first.

After the Sox tied things at 2, Mark Grudzielanek and David DeJesus hit back-to-back RBI singles in the second to give Kansas City the lead for good.

Contreras didn’t allow another run over the next four innings, but Brian Bannister (10-7) held the South Siders to two runs over 6 2/3 innings. Contreras left trailing 4-2.

“Everybody is pulling for Jose,” said Paul Konerko, who hit a solo homer off Jimmy Gobble in the eighth. “We know it’s been tough this year, but he’s done so much for this team, this organization, you’re just behind him. It will get turned around, hopefully sooner than later.

“He’s approaching every start like when he was throwing great and everybody loved him.

“That’s the way this game is and it will turn.”

Wednesday’s game nearly turned after Mike Myers allowed a two-run homer to Butler in the seventh and Gavin Floyd gave up an unearned run in the eighth.

Trailing 7-2 the Sox began a rally with Konerko’s homer.

Juan Uribe started the bottom of the ninth with a double, and Jerry Owens drew a two-out walk. Josh Fields followed with a three-run homer off Royals closer Joakim Soria to make it 7-6.

Jim Thome kept hope alive with a single that brought the potential winning run to the plate. Konerko struck out swinging to end the game.

It was a near comeback that would have taken Contreras off the hook, but instead became just another loss that forced the Sox back into a tie for fourth place in the AL Central with these same Royals.

“Now, it’s late August and I’m sure we are all tired of being close,” Fields said. “Just from being here, I know how the guys feel. You want to get the wins. It’s the competitive nature. You want to look for the positive and it’s good we came back, but we want to start getting wins.”

Dropping 20

Sox pitchers who’ve lost 20 or more games in a season

25: Patsy Flaherty (1903)

24: Pat Caraway (1931)

21: Stan Bahnsen (1973), Ted Lyons (1933)

20: Ed Walsh (1910), Jim Scott (1913), Roy Wilkinson (1921), Lyons (1929), Eddie Smith (1942), Bill Wight (1948), Wilbur Wood (1973), Wood (1975)