HOUSTON -- The White Sox don’t want to believe it, but the time to break out the "For Sale" signage is ever so close.
One night after shoddy defense deprived Chris Sale of a victory, the offense and running game got in the way on Saturday night.
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The White Sox rallied late, but couldn’t score with a man on second and no outs in the eighth and ninth innings as the Houston Astros held on for a 4-3 victory in front of 21,549 at Minute Maid Field.
Pinch runner Jordan Danks was picked off second base to end the game for the White Sox, who dropped to a season-low nine games under the .500-mark after their 12th loss in 16 games.
With plenty of attractive trade pieces whom contending teams might want to add, the White Sox have to know they’re short on time.
“I’m focused more on what we’re doing here than thinking about that stuff,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We just have to clean it up. Once you figure out one thing, something else happens.”
Several more negatives happened on the way to the team’s 37th loss.
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Down 4-3, the White Sox had prime chances to score against Houston’s bullpen in the game’s final two innings.
Jordan Danks, who ran after Dayan Viciedo drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, stole a base to move into scoring position. But Astros closer Jose Veras rebounded with strikeouts of Gordon Beckham and Tyler Flowers. Veras then took the bat out of the hands of one of the Sox hottest hitters, Alejandro De Aza, as he picked Danks off second to end the game.
An inning earlier, relievers Paul Clemens, Wesley Wright and Hector Ambriz pitched around Alexei Ramirez’s leadoff double to prevent a tie. Alex Rios struck out, Adam Dunn grounded out and pinch-hitter Jeff Keppinger grounded out to strand the runner.
The White Sox finished 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners.
“I’m not saying it wasn’t close, but I didn’t think it was close enough to end the game that way,” Jordan Danks said. “But what are you going to do about it. I saw they were both way off so I got a little bigger. I looked over at (third-base coach Joe McEwing) and he was saying, ‘Get a big lead. You’re coming around, no matter what if the ball gets in play.’ Just one of those things.”
The Astros took an early 4-1 lead off White Sox starter John Danks and their starter, Lucas Harrell, did the rest.
Harrell, who was part of the deal that brought Carlos Quentin to the White Sox, had his former team stitched up for six innings. He overpowered the White Sox as he retired 15 of 16 batters.
Harrell tired in the seventh inning and gave way to the bullpen after Dunn homered and Beckham, who had two hits, double in a run with two outs.
Tyler Flowers followed with a two-out single but Astros second baseman Jose Altuve retrieved the ball in time to prevent Beckham from scoring. Clemens then came on to strike out De Aza to keep it a 4-3 game.
“It’s like we’re finding new ways to do it,” Ventura said. “(The game) ends in a way we don’t like. But Johnny (Danks) pitched fine, we were kind of coming back and fighting. You’ve got to look more at the positives right now with the way it ended.”
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John Danks (1-3) didn’t fill the bases with runners.
But much like his start in Seattle last week, the left-hander was hurt by the few mistakes he made. He allowed four earned runs, five hits and walked and hit a batter in six-plus innings.
After he retired the last 21 batters he faced in his previous start, John Danks got the first five outs on Saturday to extend his streak to 26. But the streak was snapped in the second inning when he struck Carlos Pena with a pitch and Ronny Cedeno followed with a two-out RBI to left-center to tie the game at 1.
Two innings later, John Danks allowed a pair of solo home runs as Jason Castro ripped a 0-2 fastball over the wall in right-center. Chris Carter then blasted the first pitch he saw off the left-field foul pole to put Houston up 3-1.
Brandon Barnes also doubled in a run in the fifth to give the Astros a three-run lead.
Despite consecutive losses to one of the worst teams in the majors and that they trail first-place Detroit by 8 1/2-games, John Danks insists the White Sox don’t believe their chances have vanished.
“We haven’t counted ourselves out,” John Danks said. “Obviously we are not in a very good position right now, but there’s a lot of baseball left. We have a lot of games against the teams ahead of us. We are working hard. We have a lot of talent on this team. It just hasn’t clicked. It seems like sometimes we are almost finding ways to lose.…We have a lot of talent. So, 25 guys in here believe that there’s still time to make a run and we are still good enough to do it. It’s just up to us to do it.”