Those White Sox surfaced again on Monday night.
The team that spent the first seven weeks of the season mired under .500 reappeared after laying dormant for two weeks.
The White Sox used the same formula that helped them underachieve these first two months -- no offense plus poor defense and equally bad pitching --- as they dropped the opener of the Crosstown Cup 7-0 to the Cubs in front of 30,631 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Jeff Samardzija (3-6) threw a two-hit shutout and the White Sox made several costly mistakes in what was only their fourth loss in 13 games. The loss drops the White Sox, who on Sunday reached the .500 mark for the first time since April 10, to 24-25.
“You can't win if you play like that,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I don't know if it was flat, if Samardzija made us flat or we were just flat. It was definitely not what we've been playing like.”
The White Sox have done everything imaginable to rid themselves of their trifling play. They’ve held players-only meetings and have met with the coaching staff, too. They’ve continued to take infield at the conclusion of road batting practices in order to keep themselves from mental lapses. Two weeks ago, they even hit the field five hours before first pitch for an additional infield practice.
But as much as they’ve done to free themselves from themselves, the poor play still has seeped in at times.
The unpleasantness -- which led to 33 errors and untold mental lapses through the first 48 games -- was everywhere Monday on a day when Samardzija left little margin for error.
It began in the first inning when shortstop Alexei Ramirez didn’t cover second base on Starlin Castro’s steal attempt. Castro got a poor jump and catcher Tyler Flowers had to double-pump before he could release his attempt because Ramirez was late to the base.
“I'm not sure,” Flowers said when asked about the play. “I'm sure (Ramirez will) be there next time.”
Alfonso Soriano took advantage of the opportunity with a two-out RBI single off the left-field fence off White Sox starter Jose Quintana.
Julio Borbon then took advantage of Quintana’s walk of No. 8 hitter Ryan Sweeney in the fifth inning when he crushed the first pitch he saw from the left-hander for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
Two of Quintana’s three walks scored.
“I just made a bad pitch and I can’t make that kind of mistake in that situation,” Quintana said through a translator. “I feel that can’t happen there. The game is tight and that’s a situation where I have to keep the game down.”
The White Sox defense then helped blow the game wide-open in the seventh inning.
Sweeney struck out against Nate Jones to start the seventh but the pitch got away and Sweeney reached on Flowers’ throwing error.
One out later, Borbon singled. Dayan Viciedo prevented a run with an outfield assist on Castro’s single. But Alejandro De Aza gave it back and more when he misplayed Anthony Rizzo’s fly ball into a two-out, two-run triple to put the Cubs ahead 6-0. Soriano, who went 3-for-4, followed with an RBI single off Jones, who allowed three earned runs and four hits in an inning.
It didn’t make a difference with the way Samardzija pitched.
The right-hander took advantage of an aggressive approach by White Sox hitters and efficiently worked his way into the deep innings. Samardzija walked only Paul Konerko in the fifth inning and Flowers in the ninth.
He set down the side in order in the first, second, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Samardzija, who struck out eight, pitched around the walk to Flowers and a two-out single by Ramirez in the ninth to preserve the shutout. It was the fourth time this season the White Sox -- last in the American League and 28th in the majors with a .293 on-base percentage -- have been shut out by an opponent.
“Again, I don't know if it was the pitcher who made us flat, but there was enough of a lack of focus that needs to be there,” Ventura said.