The White Sox were spotted a bases-loaded, nobody-out opportunity to break out of their collective slump. But even putting things on a figurative tee weren’t enough.
All the White Sox got from that sparkling run-scoring chance in the seventh inning was one run, which was the team’s only tally in a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals in front of 27,631 Saturday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field.
It was the team’s eighth loss in its last 10 games and dealt the American League Central leaders their fourth consecutive series loss in a row. The White Sox aren’t hitting the panic button right now, but haven’t consistently put together both good pitching and good hitting since sweeping the Minnesota Twins two weeks ago.
“We all have to come together as a unit, as hitters, and understand that we are good and when we get opportunities, we have to capitalize whether it’s a sac fly or ground out and do our job,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “That’s what we haven’t been doing as hitters.”
After being muted for six innings by the combination of Royals starter Danny Duffy — who was on a strict pitch count and only threw 4 1/3 innings — and reliever Peter Moylan, the White Sox offense seemed to wake up in the seventh against left-hander Brian Flynn. Dioner Navarro drew a leadoff walk, and Tyler Saladino followed with a single to left.
Adam Eaton then laid down a bunt, which was uncharacteristically bobbled by sure-handed Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas to load the bases. Up stepped Jose Abreu — hitting second for the second consecutive game — to face Joakim Soria with the tying run on second.
Abreu meekly grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, scoring Navarro but neutering the inning. Frazier struck out, stranding the tying run on third, to end the frame.
Abreu entered Saturday with just a .646 OPS with runners in scoring position, the product of just one extra-base hit (a double).
“You could see it as far as getting in those situations trying to probably hit a seven-run homer,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can’t get out of it that way. You gotta be able to relax and get through it.
“… The tough part of baseball is they don’t just give you a week off where there aren’t going to be any games. So I don’t know if he gets a day off or not but we’ll be there for him.”
It hasn’t just been Abreu, though. Frazier pointed to his hitless showing this series, and Brett Lawrie’s sixth-inning single ended an 0-19 stretch. The confluence of middle-of-the-order slumps has been magnified against the defending World Series champs, who have played much better than their 22-20 record would suggest this weekend.
Starter Miguel Gonzalez did his part by turning in his best start in a White Sox uniform. The 31-year-old right-hander scattered two runs over six innings on six hits with eight strikeouts and no walks — his first start since last July that he didn’t issue a free pass.
Kansas City plated a run in the first inning on an Eric Hosmer sacrifice fly, and Lorenzo Cain swatted a solo home run in the sixth to notch the second tally.
“There’s always slim margins that make it hurt,” Ventura said. “If you get blown out 10-1, you had no chance anyway. These are always the ones you look back at the opportunities you had and they’re harder to get over.”