NEW YORK -- The White Sox played for a run late in Monday’s contest and the strategy backfired.
Looking to break a scoreless tie in the seventh inning, the White Sox called for a bunt with No. 3 hitter Melky Cabrera at bat with two on and none out. Cabrera executed the bunt perfectly, but surrendering the extra out proved costly as New York Mets starter Matt Harvey retired Todd Frazier and J.B. Shuck in order to strand the runners.
Half an inning later, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana and the Mets sent the White Sox to their seventh straight loss with a 1-0 defeat in front of 38,339 at Citi Field. Quintana lost for the fifth time in 10 decisions despite limiting New York to a run and six hits in seven innings. The White Sox have lost 15 of 19 and are now only sit two games above .500.
“I think (bunting is) the right choice,” Frazier said. “I’m there to get RBIs. A lot of people complain he’s bunting. No. I’m the 3-4 hitter. I’m supposed to get those runs in. He did his job, got the guys over.
“You got an opportunity to get runs in with less than two outs put the ball on the ground or hit it as deep as you can. On my end, it’s frustrating when you get pitches to hit and don’t do nothing with them.”
Harvey didn’t resemble the guy who recently has faced scrutiny about whether or not he deserves to be in the major leagues. Working with a mid-to-high 90s fastball he located well, you’d have been hard pressed to believe you were watching a pitcher who brought a 6.08 ERA into the contest.
But Harvey finally looked as if he might crack in the seventh inning.
The right-hander has struggled all season in his third trip through the order as opponents have a 1.326 OPS during that round of plate appearances. That’s compared with a .666 OPS in the first pass and an .844 in the second round.
Adam Eaton got the third trip through started nicely with an eight-pitch walk and Jose Abreu jumped on a first-pitch fastball to single to left to put two on for Cabrera, who was at that point 0-for-2.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura called for a sac bunt and Cabrera squared on a first-pitch ball. Two pitches later, Cabrera pushed the pair into scoring position. But the play also took the bat out of Cabrera’s hands.
Harvey then needed only three pitches to induce a foul pop out off Frazier’s bat and Shuck grounded out to eliminate the threat.
“With the way both guys were pitching, you figured one run was going to do it, so you’re trying to get him in scoring position,” Ventura said. “You’re able to get a guy in scoring position and get one at first, and if you get two, you’re looking good.
“(Frazier) knows what to do in that situation, but he just popped it up. He was trying to either hit something in the air or hit a ground ball and get that run. But it’s tough going right now.”
It didn’t get any easier as Walker led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer to left to put the Mets ahead for good. That’s essentially how it has gone for the White Sox in this spell. Of their 15 losses, two have come by two or fewer runs.
“It ran a little bit to the middle,” Quintana said. “I tried to go away.
“He was looking for a fastball, and he’s a pretty good hitter, and that’s a mistake for me.”
Mets relievers Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia set down the final six White Sox in order to hand Quintana another loss he didn’t deserve.
The left-hander made it clear early on he was up to the challenge against Harvey. With his team in need of another big start, Quintana struck out the side in the second inning and four straight overall.
He pitched out of trouble in the fourth inning with a double play and limited the Mets’ chances until the seventh. Even after the Walker homer, Quintana -- who struck out seven -- pitched out of another jam, stranding two to keep the White Sox within striking distance.
But those efforts went unrewarded once again. Frazier said he should shoulder the blame, not Ventura.
“There’s no way, it’s me,” Frazier said. “Put the ball in play and stop popping the ball up. Find a way to get it on the ground, hit it as far as you can. I got a fastball to hit, I got two of them. You don’t get that often, especially with a guy like Harvey throwing.
“He missed his spot and I missed my swing. So that’s on me.”