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White Sox sabotaged by old habits

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CHICAGO -- All that goodwill the Chicago White Sox hauled home from the West Coast was squandered this week in a four-game series that resembled the team’s struggles in the first month of the season.

Of all the games the White Sox won during the series against the Cleveland Indians, it was the one Monday when reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber struck out 12 and appeared to be in total control. But Chicago found a way to win anyway.

At the time, that victory seemed like destiny, since the White Sox had just gone 5-1 on a six-game road trip, including a rare three-game sweep at Oakland. Now the White Sox are on a three-game losing streak and wondering what happened to their recent hit parade after falling 5-2 on Thursday night.

“Anytime you lose a few in a row, you’ve got to hit reset and come back out tomorrow and do the best you can to forget about how the past series went,” said veteran Adam LaRoche, who went just 1-for-12 with four walks in the series. “It’s frustrating. Individually, it’s frustrating. I’m trying to figure it out. And I know, as a team, it sucks losing a few in a row anytime. So, you know, we’ll snap out of it.”

The tailspin started with the battle against Kluber, as the White Sox managed just six more runs the rest of the series in losing the final three games.

And on Thursday, the White Sox were headed toward their third shutout loss of the season -- and first since May 1 -- until Tyler Flowers crushed a mammoth 436-foot, two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

“Yeah, expectations were a lot more than what the series had,” Flowers said. “But sometimes pitching is pretty good. We have some of our own. Those [Indians starters] happened to be pretty hot, and they really executed throughout their entire outings, I thought.”

Yes, some cap-tipping was appropriate, especially with the starts by Kluber and teammate Trevor Bauer. But the White Sox also faced Shaun Marcum, who was making his first start since 2013, and then on Thursday they got Danny Salazar, who started the season in the minor leagues.

Sometimes bad offense can make opposing stating pitching even better.

“Yeah, it does not look good the last few days, that’s for sure,” said manager Robin Ventura, who wasn’t in the mood to make excuses for his club. “One way or another, we have to turn that around. You want to pitch well first and scratch across some runs. We had guys on base. We just didn’t get the big hit to get it across. It’s simple -- it needs to be better. That’s not tough to figure out.”

After Monday’s victory the White Sox had won 10 of their past 13 games, but the idea that they are a team on the rise is no longer a topic. They have dropped to two games under .500 at 18-20 after rising a game above earlier in the week for the first time all season.

Now comes a series this weekend against the Twins, who blasted the White Sox in a four-game series April 30-May 3 -- one that was so lopsided, the Twins outscored the White Sox 31-8.

Indians pitching just gave the Twins a blueprint to follow for the upcoming three games. LaRoche acknowledged the Indians pitched well, but he didn’t want to make it sound like the White Sox were powerless to help themselves.

“The other side of it is we’re doing a lot of it to ourselves, whether it’s letting a guy off the hook when he gets in trouble, chasing pitches out of the zone, or just having rotten luck, hitting balls hard right at guys,” LaRoche said. “We have a lot of games left, so we’ll get it figured out.”

And if the reversal of the offense’s good fortune wasn’t enough, the back-to-back starts from rookie Carlos Rodon and veteran John Danks only raised more concerns about the stability of the starting rotation.

Danks gave up four first-inning runs Thursday. He got into a groove, retiring 11 consecutive batters into the fifth inning, but by then the damage had been done.

“I made some bad pitches that got hit,” Danks said. “I wasn’t throwing strikes. That’s tough, pitching behind in the count. You know, got to get ahead and stay ahead.”

While the defense seems steadier than it was just 10 days ago, the White Sox still committed two more errors Thursday.

Better offense and starting pitching is what got the White Sox going on the last homestand, and it is what they will need to start moving forward again.

“It’s unfortunate we got beat, but we have another [Friday] and we have [Jeff Samardzija] going for us,” Danks said. “We have to feel good about that.”