When will an “extraordinarily frustrating” stretch finally come to an end for the White Sox?
Those were the words general manager Rick Hahn used to describe the last month prior to the White Sox ending a five-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals in front of 20,014 at U.S. Cellular Field Thursday night. Before Miguel Gonzalez threw the first pitch of the game, the team made a flurry of moves: Right-hander Mat Latos was designated for assignment, right-hander Tyler Danish was called up from Double-A and first baseman Justin Morneau was signed to a one-year, $1 million deal.
On one hand, the White Sox are still within striking distance in a diluted American League Central currently led by the Cleveland Indians. On the other, though, there’s a sense of urgency to get things turned around for a team that’s absorbed brutal loss after brutal loss since the beginning of May.
“Certainly after being 23-10 there was probably going to be a little bit of giveback,” Hahn said. “But by no means did we anticipate this dramatic and immediate correction. Extraordinarily frustrating. It’s time for it to end.”
Thursday night’s win was a necessary start for a team that entered the day having lost 20 of its last 26 games.
Gonzalez cruised through six innings, allowing just a solo home run to Daniel Murphy with no walks and five strikeouts to earn his first win since July 25, 2015. The biggest moment of his evening came in his sixth and final inning when, with runners on second and third and nobody out, shortstop Tyler Saladino made an excellent throw home to nab Nats catcher Jose Lobaton. Jayson Werth hit into a double play one batter later that kept Washington off the board.
“It's what we needed,” manager Robin Ventura said of Gonzalez’s start. “If anything, the way the last few days have gone for us, you need some length and you need a guy to shut them down. I think he did all of that.”
Former South Side farmhand Gio Gonzalez was erratic early on, and the White Sox capitalized. Melky Cabrera’s two-run double was followed by a Brett Lawrie RBI double to net all three of the team’s runs in the first inning.
After that rough frame, the Nationals left-hander scattered three hits and racked up 10 strikeouts. But thanks to the right-handed Gonzalez and a lockdown setup effort from Zach Duke and Nate Jones — and a save from David Robertson that came with the tying run on first base — it didn’t matter.
“Big time. Bad,” catcher Dioner Navarro said when asked how badly the White Sox needed Thursday’s win. “We’ve been scuffling. We are in a bad spot right now. But we know what it takes. We know what we gotta do. We just got to continue to do it. Baby steps, so hopefully we keep doing what we’ve been doing, what we did tonight.”
The win brought the White Sox back to .500 after spending a day under water, but this is still a team that’s only won one series over the last month. And after taking two out of three from the New York Mets after Memorial Day, the White Sox were swept out of Detroit and then blown out in back-to-back games by the Nationals.
While Hahn’s latest moves were another attempt at finding a spark, he’s not worried about the makeup and attitude in the clubhouse. Eventually, though, things have to turn around for good. Whether that process began Thursday night remains to be seen.
“Coming out of two big wins in New York it felt like we started maybe to turn the tide and play a little bit more like we had over the first 30-plus games,” Hahn said. “So certainly (we) know the preparation's there, the focus is there, the energy and the commitment is there, it's just a matter of we've got to start getting results.”