The flurry of roster moves made last week wasn’t enough to produce a much-needed series victory for the White Sox against the reigning World Series champions.
The White Sox 3-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals in front of 30,863 at U.S. Cellular Field Sunday was the club’s 11th defeat in their last 12 games against American League Central opponents.
A little over a month ago, the White Sox had a six-game lead in the AL Central and were 13 games over .500. But since May 10, the White Sox are 8-22, haven’t won three consecutive games and have only won one series (against the New York Mets, after which they were promptly swept by the Detroit Tigers).
It’s tough to point to an easy fix for a team that hasn’t had much go right for them in the last 30 games. There’s been plenty of roster turnover in the last week — Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins were jettisoned while top prospect Tim Anderson was promoted and veteran starter James Shields was acquired — but it hasn’t led to the White Sox marrying good pitching, defense and/or offense with any consistency.
“There’s no magic formula for it,” catcher Alex Avila said. “There’s nothing you can say, there’s nothing you can do other than make sure you are prepared to come each game. The past few days we’ve been getting some really good pitching, some quality starts. Basically, we’ve been playing good defense and the one key that has been kind of missing is key hits in situations instead of getting one run being able to push two, three or four runs across.”
Carlos Rodon was solid in his six innings of work, allowing two run on seven hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. The 22-year-old left-hander, who was pushed back from his scheduled start Thursday due to a sore neck, lowered his season ERA to 4.28.
The damage could’ve been far worse, though, if not for Kansas City’s overaggressiveness on the base paths. The Royals had four players reach base in the second inning but only scored one run thanks to Paulo Orlando and Christian Colon being thrown out trying to steal by catcher Alex Avila.
Kansas City got on the board in the first inning when Kendrys Morales ripped a two-out single to center that scored Whit Merrifield.
Jose Abreu’s sixth-inning solo home run, his eighth of the season, halved the White Sox deficit at the time but was the only offense the team could muster. Anderson hit into two double plays while Royals starter Yordano Ventura racked up 10 strikeouts in his seven innings of work.
"He was flat out nasty," Avila said. "He has great stuff. When he is able to command his curveball to go along with his fastball and changeup, he’s very tough."
Ventura entered the game with a well below average strikeout rate of 14.7 percent, but struck out 10 of the 25 batters he faced on Sunday (40 percent). It was the third time the White Sox faced the mercurial Ventura this season, and it was by far the least effective showing the team had against him.
“Some guys have to pick it up,” the fifth-year White Sox manager said. “The DH spot's going to rotate somewhat of who you've got in there and who needs a day. But these are the guys we've got and we've got to figure out something.”
After Sunday’s loss, the White Sox fell to 10-14 against American League Central opponents, but six of those wins (and none of the losses) have come against the lowly Minnesota Twins. The White Sox, too, fell to 2-7 against the Royals — who came to Chicago on a seven-game losing streak — in 2016.
The White Sox have six more games against division opponents — three at home vs. Detroit and three against the Indians in Cleveland — in the next week. And while they’re still within striking distance in the division, that 4-14 mark against the Royals, Indians and Tigers has to improve for the White Sox to remain competitive in a diluted division.
“There’s no worry,” Rodon said. “I mean, we know we’re good enough. We’re just going through a rough patch and we just need to come out of it and start winning.”