BALTIMORE — The White Sox haven’t given away many games this season, but Friday’s effort flooded the memory banks with ghosts of errors past.
Whereas sloppy play was omnipresent in 2015, clean baseball has been king for the White Sox and their hot start this season. But the White Sox defense hurt Carlos Rodon with two errors in the fifth inning and Nolan Reimold’s three-run home run got him later as the Baltimore Orioles sent the White Sox to a 6-3 loss in front of 19,912 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Reimold’s seventh-inning, opposite-field homer off Rodon broke a 3-all tie and led to a second straight White Sox loss. The White Sox are 3-2 on their seven-game trip with Mat Latos and Chris Sale scheduled to start their final two games.
“We just didn’t play good defense behind him,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We didn’t glove it very well, which is uncharacteristic of us. Bad night with the glove.”
The White Sox entered Friday’s game third in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, according to fangraphs.com.
While defensive metrics are hardly perfect, they at least give an indication of just how good the White Sox defense has been this season.
Last season, the White Sox were at or near the bottom among all 30 teams in both measures.
But this year’s sure-handed group has turned things around.
The steady play has been there on a consistent basis since spring training. The White Sox have made both routine and spectacular plays alike. Giving away outs and making pitchers work harder is a thing of the past.
Yet the defense sidetracked Rodon’s gem in the fifth inning Friday night and he never fully recovered.
While Rodon pointed to a leadoff walk he issued to Adam Jones in the fifth as the cause of his troubles, he did more than enough to get out of the frame with a 1-0 White Sox lead intact. With Jones aboard, Rodon induced a potential double play ball, but second baseman Brett Lawrie booted it and the Orioles had runners on the corners with no outs. Todd Frazier eliminated Jones on a rundown on the next play, however, as the runner got too far off the bag on J.J. Hardy’s grounder to third. But Baltimore kept the rally alive with an infield single by Reimold to load the bases and a two-run single by Jonathan Schoop.
Rodon looked like he got out of the jam again when he induced another grounder off Joey Rickard’s bat. But Jimmy Rollins slipped on his relay throw, which went into the stands and allowed the Orioles to pull ahead 3-1. The lead may have been larger had it not been for a perfect throw home by Adam Eaton to nail Rickard on Manny Machado’s two-out single.
“There’s not much you can do,” Rodon said. “When you walk the leadoff guy, that’s on me. It can’t happen. It’s a different inning if I don’t walk that leadoff guy. Say I get him out, and it’s a different, 1-2-3 inning. Those guys are trying as hard as they can. Those are the best players out there.”
Both Rodon and the White Sox offense responded nicely after the fifth.
The White Sox scored runs in the sixth and seventh innings as Jose Abreu singled in a run and Lawrie homered off Orioles reliever Brad Brach to tie it. The White Sox could have had more, but Jones thwarted a sixth-inning rally when he raced in to catch Melky Cabrera’s bases-loaded liner and fired a perfect one-hop throw home to nail Rollins for the final out.
Rodon then needed only eight pitches to get through the middle of Baltimore’s lineup in the sixth. But the Orioles jumped on him in the seventh with singles by Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy. Reimold then drove a first-pitch fastball from Rodon out to put the Orioles ahead for good.
The left-handed had been on cruise control for the game’s first four innings, using a strong slider to efficiently keep the Orioles under wraps. Rodon needed 55 pitches and had only allowed an opposite-field single as the White Sox led 1-0.
While alarmists might be concerned the team’s hot start is mirage and more sloppy play is on the way, Frazier said not to worry. The third baseman believes the White Sox had an off night on a sloppy field and clean play will once again reign supreme.
“It happens,” Frazier said. “Nothing you can do about it. We came back and tied it up. Rodon pitched a hell of a game, just that one inning. Things could have a different way here or there, but those mistakes will happen. We’re still good defensively, no problems there.
“It’s just the way it goes.”