As they constructed their 25-man roster this offseason, the White Sox stressed run prevention as a theme.
Great pitching and defense would help them overcome the loss of significant run producers in departed free agents A.J. Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis.
Thus far, the White Sox defense hasn’t lived up to the standard set forth by management and the coaching staff.
Another error and more awful offense did in the White Sox chances on Monday night in a 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians in front of 14,590 at U.S. Cellular Field. Matt Thornton made the costly mistake with an errant pickoff throw in the top of the eighth inning and Adsrubal Cabrera made him pay with a two-out, two-run, go-ahead single. The White Sox have now lost four in a row and 10th of their last 13 games.
“You keep shooting yourself in the foot and you give major league teams opportunities, they’re going to take advantage of them,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Until we clean it up, you’re going to lose games. It’s that simple.”
Last season, the White Sox committed a major-league low 70 errors and finished with a .988 fielding percentage, tied for the best in the majors.
Their top-notch defense also limited the amount of unearned runs allowed by their pitchers to an Major League Baseball-low 30, nine fewer than the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.
But when Thornton’s pickoff attempt to second base skipped through the legs of runner Drew Stubbs and into center field the White Sox produced their 13th error in 19 games. The unearned run allowed is also the team’s eighth, which puts them on pace for 111 errors and 68 unearned runs.
Monday’s gaffe allowed Stubbs to advance to third and Michael Brantley to reach second base.
Thornton struck out Jason Kipnis to momentarily keep the White Sox 2-1 lead intact. But Cabrera ripped a first-pitch fastball from Thornton (0-1) into center field for a two-run single.
The White Sox went into Monday tied for the fifth most errors in the majors and are one behind the Indians, who have committed 14, for the most in the American League. Were the team producing runs the problem might go unnoticed, or at the least would be overlooked. But with runs at a premium right now, every mistake is magnified.
“Things are not clicking together,” said shortstop Alexei Ramirez, whose 10th inning error Saturday led to the winning run scoring in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins. “Errors are always costly, but when you’re not doing the other things, little things, than things seem to be more evident. They’re felt more. … We’re just going through a tough stretch right now. But every team goes through that and we’ll get out of it.”
The team’s late slip led to another tough-luck no-decision for White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod.
Axelrod tamed an offense that has averaged 4.71 runs per game. He held them to a run, three hits and two walks and struck out four in six strong innings.
“He did a tremendous job,” catcher Hector Gimenez said. “Every pitch I called he threw right where I wanted. He pitched pretty good.”
The White Sox fared much better against Justin Masterson this time than they did the last in Cleveland. Ten days after he shut them out at Progressive Field, Masterson wasn’t nearly as sharp as he allowed nine runners to reach base against him in seven innings.
Trailing 1-0, the White Sox tied the game in the bottom of the second on Conor Gillaspie’s first home run of the season, a solo shot to right. They then pulled ahead 2-1 in the fourth inning on a two-out, RBI-double to left-center by Gimenez. Gimenez later exited the game after he was hit by a pitch in left shin in the eighth inning but said he’s fine.
But Masterson worked his way out of trouble in two key spots to keep the Indians’ chances afloat.
Adam Dunn flew out to left and Paul Konerko struck out against in the first inning as Masterson stranded a pair of runners.
Then in the seventh, pinch-runner Blake Tekotte was picked off second base and Alejandro De Aza grounded into a double play to thwart another potential rally.
The offense’s average with runners in scoring position dipped to .163 after a 0-for-4 effort that saw six runners stranded.
All of the above led to Thornton’s mistake garnering more attention than it would had it come with a five-run lead.
“It’s because we are losing,” Thornton said. “If we had been winning games, it doesn’t hurt as much and stuff. But when you have a string of losses going together and you make a mistake like that, it costs you a game. It’s frustrating, disappointing, but we move on and get ready for tomorrow.”