A dark cloud hung over U.S. Cellular Field after the White Sox 8-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
Sheets of rain washed away any momentum the South Siders had after they returned home from a triumphant road stint. By early Sunday evening, however, they capped off a seven-game home stand with another loss, sending them limping to the buses wondering what had gone wrong.
A series win in Milwaukee and a sweep in Oakland sent positive vibes through the clubhouse that winning on the road was no longer an issue. The White Sox were already 10-5 at home this year before this week so playing at home was thought to be a strength. Yet seven games of early deficits and insufficient offense now has the White Sox in the basement of the AL Central by way of percentage points.
The White Sox room for error continues to shrink as surprise teams like the Twins, who moved up into second place in the division with a win today and a Detroit Tigers' loss, show they aren’t going to be a pushover. The defending AL Champion Kansas City Royals are on a mission to get back to the Fall Classic. Eight games back of first place and five back of second isn’t where the South Siders wanted to be in late May.
“We got two of the best records in baseball in our division,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before the loss. “Everybody else isn’t bad either. There’s no rest playing in your own division by any means.”
Luck certainly has played a factor in some of the losses. If outfielder Adam Eaton catches Joe Mauer’s line drive today, could that have changed the complexion of the game? What if Eaton’s eight-inning gapper yesterday actually hits the ground instead of falling into the glove of a diving Aaron Hicks when the White Sox trailed by one?
“We’re giving 110 percent here,” Eaton said. “We’re battling our butts off day in and day out. Sometimes the cards don’t fall our way.”
There are, however, red flags that still need addressing. The defense continues to be an issue as errors have had a demoralizing effect on this group. Early deficits have proved costly. And the offense has shown very few signs of life, making those early runs the pitching staff has given up a monumental challenge to overcome.
If there were easy answers, the White Sox would love to know.
“If you can find that out tell me as soon as you can because if you could find that out that would be very helpful to us and we could use that,” Eaton said.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Maybe this 11-game road trip is the answer the White Sox are looking for. A set with the Toronto Blue Jays, the last place team in the AL East, might allow the bats to warm thanks to the Blue Jays' 4.67 team ERA. Waiting for them afterwards is a double-header with a lukewarm Baltimore Orioles, winners of seven of their last 18 games. The real test that nobody expected is the Houston Astros this coming weekend. Yes, those Astros. The ones with the most wins in baseball. Then, if the White Sox are still standing, the Texas Rangers, who have started playing some of their best ball lately, await in Arlington.
A two-country, four-city road trip normally doesn’t sound too enticing to baseball players. But maybe it’s the getaway and the answer the White Sox so desperately need as they try and escape the dark skies above them and figure out what kind of team they will be in 2015.
“That can be a good thing,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said of the trip. “I don’t think anybody wants an off day right now.”