Jeff Samardzija’s August struggles continued on Monday night.
The White Sox offense, which wasn’t much better until it was too late, hurt itself again in the middle innings.
Jose Abreu’s solo home run aside, the White Sox missed out on several key opportunities against Joe Kelly and the Boston Red Sox in a 5-4 loss at U.S. Cellular Field. Rusney Castillo’s career-high five RBIs all came against Samardzija, who was knocked out after 5 2/3 innings.
The White Sox lost for the 25th time in 47 one-run games as they did nothing with a leadoff double in the fifth inning and ran into an out to end the sixth.
“Those always seem to stick in your head at the end of a game you are losing by one and you had some opportunities,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It adds up at the end.”
Even though Samardzija continued a hittable August, the White Sox nearly overcame a 5-1 deficit.
They got one back in the sixth on Melky Cabrera’s RBI groundout. Then Abreu, who homered in the first, his 10th in 33 games (he has 31 RBIs in that period), doubled off Jean Machi to start the ninth. Avisail Garcia singled Abreu in one out later and Adam LaRoche singled to put runners on the corners. Alexei Ramirez’s RBI groundout made it a one-run game but Carlos Sanchez popped out.
The late rally only magnified a pair of missed opportunities in the fifth and sixth innings. Ramirez started the fifth inning with a double but the White Sox didn’t score. Right after Cabrera made it a 5-2 game in the sixth, Garcia singled to right but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double as he slid past the base.
It was the 56th out on the bases this season for the White Sox, who entered play with a .305 on-base percentage, good for 23rd in the majors. The 56 outs on the bases is the third-most in the majors, 12 more than the league average, according to baseball-reference.com.
“You get frustrated because sometimes you try to fight back and you’re getting close to tying the score but you can’t take that next step to get ahead,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “That kind of game is where you feel more frustrated.”
Castillo frustrated Samardzija, who felt good despite dropping his fifth straight start, all in August.
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Staked the early 1-0 lead, Samardzija was one strike away from a perfect second inning when he hit Hanley Ramirez in the back with a 2-2 fastball. All-Star Brock Holt -- who reached three times in four trips -- singled with two outs and Castillo crushed a 2-0 slider out to dead center to give the Red Sox a 3-1 advantage. Castillo’s homer was the 23rd this season allowed by Samardzija, who allowed a career-high 25 in 2013 for the Cubs.
After he put the first two runners on in the third, courtesy of a single and another hit batsmen, Samardzija seemed to turn a corner. The right-hander retired 10 of the next 11 batters he faced, including six on strikeouts.
But after Samardzija struck out Travis Shaw to start the sixth inning things quickly fell apart. Hanley Ramirez doubled to left center, Holt walked and Castillo connected on a 1-1 slider, driving it to deep right center for a two-run double and a 5-1 Boston lead.
In August, Samardzija has a 9.00 ERA as he has allowed 39 hits and 28 earned runs in 28 innings with 10 walks and 23 strikeouts. Samardzija has allowed seven homers in that span, too.
“The last few times when I give up runs we score runs and when I don’t we don’t,” Samardzija said. “That kind of sums it up the way it’s been here a while. We play every day and we play to win those close games, personally I have to pitch better to keep the game where it needs to be.”
Kelly did just that in a stunning turnaround from last month when the White Sox knocked him out in the fourth inning.
With improved command of his offspeed pitches -- and those missed opportunities by the White Sox -- Kelly was too much. He induced eight straight ground balls starting in the second inning and retired 14 of 22 on the grounders. Kelly limited the White Sox to two runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings.
“They all count at the end,” Ventura said. “They are always important. There’s never a time that you sit there and don’t think that you wasted one.”