BOSTON -- Go figure.
Hottest offense in baseball, defense making plays and Chris Sale on the mound -- seemed pretty safe to the think the White Sox would head home with eight straight wins and a .500 record.
But whatever mojo the White Sox mustered in the previous week wasn’t with them at Fenway Park on Thursday night. It was a replaced instead by a series of two-strike hits, dinks and dunks and runners stranded as the White Sox fell 8-2 to the Boston Red Sox in front of 36,215.
Sale -- who was struck in the leg by a line drive in the first inning -- allowed seven earned runs and 12 hits in five-plus innings as Boston prevented the White Sox from their first undefeated road trip of eight or more games since they went 11-0 from May 15-27, 1951.
“They gave us a little of our own medicine tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We’ve had a good run here for three days and they came out and did to us what we did to them.”
Whether it was a seeing-eye single, ball off the bag or one that found a glove, the White Sox seemed to catch every break possible as they outscored the Red Sox 28-14 in the first three games of the series.
But it didn’t take long to realize it wasn’t Sale’s night or the White Sox.
Down two in the first, Boston’s Xander Bogaerts’ liner struck Sale in the left thigh. After several warmup pitches, Sale resumed throwing and struck out Hanley Ramirez. He did surrender a two-out RBI double to David Ortiz but stranded him with a strikeout of Mike Napoli to hold the 2-1 lead.
Sale got through the next three innings with a little help. Blake Swihart and Bogaerts ran into outs to end the second and third innings and Pablo Sandoval struck out on a pitch that hit him in the left forearm with two on to end the fourth.
But the breaks ceased in the fifth inning.
With two on and two outs, Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz had two-strike, RBI singles to give Boston a 3-2 lead.
An infield single, hit batter and single off the glove of Alexei Ramirez loaded the bases in the sixth with no outs. After another visit with Don Cooper, Sale surrendered a two-strike single to Jackie Bradley Jr. that made it 4-2. Brock Holt’s two-run single with two strikes ended Sale’s night.
“It was weird,” Sale said. “I’d have it and then you don’t have it.
“We have been playing great. We have 24 guys in here that didn’t deserve tonight. I should have been better for them.
“It’s almost so bad you just forget about it. This one is going to be forgotten before I even walk out of that door tonight. It was so bad that you just want to, you throw it into the garbage really.”
The key for the White Sox is to remember the rest of the trip, not Thursday’s loss.
Though it was largely listless against Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright, who struck out eight in seven innings, the White Sox offense showed signs of life it hasn’t all season over the 7-1 trip. Melky Cabrera, Carlos Sanchez and Adam Eaton got on base like crazy and Jose Abreu and Cabrera knocked them in in many instances.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Overall, the White Sox outscored their opponents 56-28 on the trip and renewed their chances for a postseason appearance after they won their first seven games. Prior to Thursday’s game, reports surfaced that the White Sox, mostly expected to sell off Jeff Samardzija, instead hope to add players before Friday’s 3 p.m. CST trade deadline.
But the White Sox didn’t have it Thursday.
“(Boston) knows they were going against one of the best in the game, and they’d have to step it up, and they did,” designated hitter Adam LaRoche said. “They got some big hits in a couple of big innings there. No, (Sale’s) won plenty of games for us, and will continue to. But still, awesome road trip. Offense came alive, something we haven’t done consistently yet this year. To see that for more than one or two games was great. It was more than we could ask for going into it.”
Of course the White Sox wanted to be even after this trip. They wanted to take home their longest winning streak since 2012 as they face the New York Yankees to start a six-game homestand.
As of now, Ventura expects he’ll have the same roster when the White Sox take the field at 7 p.m. He also believes his team will have the same attitude and confidence it had on the road.
“We wanted to win all eight, but that’s the way it goes,” Ventura said. “The way you’re playing, that’s what you’re hoping for and you want us to swing the bats and we did that on this road trip.
“You wish you could go home flying tonight winning this game, but it’s a good road trip. I think guys, they’ll look at that more than they will tonight when they come in tomorrow.”