CLEVELAND — There’s a sense in the clubhouse as they head into the All-Star break that the White Sox are much better than their 45-51 record indicates.
They’re not proficient enough offensively to believe themselves to be world beaters.
But the White Sox have played well enough so far to feel as if they should have a handful more extra wins as they head into the break. Unfortunately, an issue that has blocked them from more trips to Victory Lane over the first half obstructed them yet again Sunday as the bullpen blew a late lead in a 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Minutes after they took the lead, Yan Gomes hit an opposite-field, two-run home run off Javy Guerra in the eighth inning to send the White Sox to their fourth loss in five games. The White Sox bullpen now has 13 blown saves in 32 tries this season.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to the (Gomes),” White Sox bench coach Mark Parent said. “Not a bad pitch on the outer half and it goes the other way. That’s just the way things have been going.
“It’s tough because you’d like to be happy more than a half inning.”
Frustration stemming from the bullpen’s struggles has occurred far too often over the past 3 1/ 2 weeks.
With Addison Reed traded and Nate Jones injured since April 3, followed by the mid-May injury to closer Matt Lindstrom, the White Sox have leaned on anyone and everyone in search of certainty in the late innings. While Guerra, Zach Putnam, Ronald Belisario, Daniel Webb and Jacob Petricka have all had good moments, they’ve had their share of bad ones, too.
Guerra’s latest round occurred in an instant Sunday and involved a pair of opposite-field hits. Nick Swisher fought off an inside pitch for an opposite-field single to left and three pitches later Gomes hit a 1-1 slider on the outside corner over the fence in right to put Cleveland ahead 3-2.
The loss drops the White Sox to 35-8 when leading after seven innings and to 23-27 in games decided by fewer than two runs. The White Sox bullpen is now 0-8 in their last 20 road games.
“I should have made a better pitch,” said Guerra, who has a 3.32 ERA but has allowed three home runs in 21 2/3 innings. “It should have been a better a pitch, maybe a little lower, maybe further out. I just left it up over the middle.
“These little things can’t happen. We have to win this game. We have to strap it on in the second half. We have a good time, we have to put something special together.”
The White Sox offense put together a less-than-stellar performance for most of the game and especially against Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who struck out 10 over 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
The White Sox stranded 10 runners against Bauer before they broke through for two runs in the top of the eighth inning against Bryan Shaw. Gordon Beckham’s one-out RBI single off Shaw tied the game at 1. Beckham moved into scoring position on a wild pitch and Leury Garcia, who had two hits and two steals, singled him in with two outs to give the White Sox a 2-1 advantage.
But the White Sox finished 2-for-9 with RISP and stranded 12 base runners.
“We left a few chances out there early, swung at too many bad pitches,” Parent said.
Only by the grace of a number of great pitches by John Danks did the White Sox stay close.
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He pitched out of bases-loaded jams in the second and sixth innings as he scattered a run on seven hits, two walks and a hit batter over seven frames. Danks was in line for the victory as he lowered his ERA to 3.99, about 1.65 points lower than it was on May 18. White Sox starting pitchers are 9-4 with a 2.82 ERA in 130 2/3 innings the past 20 games.
But the bullpen couldn’t close it out yet again.
“Everybody in the dugout feels like we’re a better team than our record shows,” Parent said. “We have to just take care of the little things and get some key hits when we need to and continue for our starters to keep getting us deep into a game.
“But we have confidence in everybody down there.”