It hasn’t been pretty for the White Sox since their winning streak ended, and Tuesday night was downright ugly.
Chris Sale had a second straight poor start, and the Tampa Bay Rays took advantage as they dispatched of the White Sox, 11-3, in front of 18,499 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale allowed seven runs, including two of the four home runs hit by Tampa Bay. Since they won seven straight games, the White Sox have lost five of six games, including two by Sale, and have been outscored 51-26. Avisail Garcia hit his first homer since June 8 in the losing effort.
“I've been the weak link (the last) couple times out,” Sale said. “I'm not leaving my team a chance to win; I'm not doing my job at all. It's tough. It sucks sitting in here for four innings watching what you've done just unravel and putting guys in situations they shouldn't be in. That's tough. It really sucks, honestly.”
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What had been a controlled burn turned into a five-alarm fire in the top of the sixth inning.
Already ahead by two runs, Tampa Bay put the game out of reach with Sale’s help. The All-Star pitcher loaded the bases with no outs as Asdrubal Cabrera singled in between walks to Logan Forsythe and Richie Shaffer.
Sale struck out Mikie Mahtook, whose fifth-inning solo homer gave the Rays a 3-1 lead. But Kevin Kiermaier dumped one into shallow center to drive in a run. On the play, Adam Eaton retrieved the ball and his throw home dribbled between the legs of Tyler Flowers, which allowed Cabrera to score, as Sale wasn’t there to back up the throw. Flowers was charged with an error. Daniel Webb took over, and three more runs scored before the inning was out as the Rays grabbed an 8-1 lead.
“Some sloppy ones that got through there tonight that we are not accustomed to the last week,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I thought we were over that, and we’ll handle it tomorrow.
“There’s always worse. But that’s just stuff we work on. We’ve been doing that since spring training so definitely clean that up.”
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Sale — who allowed 12 hits and seven runs in his previous start last Thursday in Boston — allowed six earned runs and six hits with three walks in 5 1/3 innings. Forsythe had a two-run blast in the first off Sale, who struck out nine. His earned-run average has climbed from 2.85 to 3.52 in his past two starts.
“We all just expect him being an ace and how talented he is to just dominate every time, and the reality is he’s human,” Flowers said. “He’s just showing he’s human like the rest of us and he makes mistakes, too. We all know he’s going to work hard, figure out whatever it is and be better next time.”
Tyler Saladino hit a solo homer in the third, but the White Sox couldn’t otherwise solve Chris Archer, who struck out seven and allowed two runs in seven innings.
This is the latest round of a season-long habit by the White Sox, who have developed an M.O. for falling off the mark for a half-dozen games, correcting their poor play and winning until the verge of the .500 mark only to drop off yet again. Previous instances occurred in mid-May, mid-June, at the All-Star break and again last week before the non-waiver trade deadline.
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The most recent instance couldn’t have come at a worse time for the club and its fans as it likely prevented the White Sox from trading Jeff Samardzija. At the same time, the White Sox also reportedly flirted with bringing in a big-name bat to help maintain the team’s offensive uprising. Ultimately, general manager Rick Hahn determined it was best not to pay a heavy ransom to bring in a rental player when his club’s chances mostly are limited to a potential spot in the wild-card play-in game.
Tuesday’s loss dropped them to 4 1/2 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays, who hold the second spot in the wild-card race. Five teams stand in between Toronto and the White Sox, who had crept within 2 1/2 games last week.
“It's tough,” Sale said. “It seems like I'm the one that always puts us in the opposite direction. I've had a chance to get us closer to .500 or even be at .500. I'm just not doing my job. It's as plain and simple as that. I've got to be better. I have to be better. They need me to be better, and I need to be better for myself and for this team.”