Focus, intensity all are lacking

CHICAGO – For a team that has been limited by their own mistakes, it appeared to get even worse for the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

It was a rough week in general for a White Sox team that was outclassed in every way by the cross-town Chicago Cubs, but the finale of a home-and-home series was particularly unsightly.

The White Sox watched a wind-blown popup fall untouched on the infield, along with Dayan Viciedo’s misread on a line drive that turned into an Anthony Rizzo triple. On the bases there was Alejandro De Aza running into an out with the White Sox down five runs.

That doesn’t take into account the fact that starting pitcher Jake Peavy game up a grand slam to his mound counterpart Travis Wood, or that reliever Nate Jones gave up another home run by completely missing his spot on a pitch again.

If it looked like the White Sox didn’t have the energy for the rivalry series, captain Paul Konerko countered that by saying the White Sox were simply trying too hard to make things happen. Whatever the case, the end result was unimpressive.

“You gotta give them credit, but at the same time, you got to look at yourself,” Peavy said. “We have to bring it. I think that we just have to step up with a little more intensity and it starts with me. I didn’t do a very good job of that today. Nor did much of anybody. We played well against Miami and then let our guard down here and didn’t play with intensity.”

Did the Cubs simply make the battle of Chicago a bigger priority than the White Sox did?

“Anytime you get beat like we did, it's going to look like that,” said manager Robin Ventura, whose team was outscored 24-6 by the Cubs this week. “That's just the way it is and you got beat. Now you've got to go try and beat somebody else.”

And to think, before the games against the Cubs started Monday, all the talk was about the White Sox seemed to have turned their season around with better defense and a little more offense.

“The last week or two we were pretty good actually when early on this year we haven’t been as a whole,” Konerko said. “There were a couple (of plays) out there today that I don’t think had anything to do with the game and winning or losing. But it’s when it comes to the base running, the defensive stuff, that’s what you want to be good at because you feel like you have some sort of control of that. Hitting and pitching, they’re tough to force if it’s not going well. You just have got to get better at it.”

Konerko took a bad hop off the chest that allowed David DeJesus to reach base in the first inning, which was just about par for the course this week.

The fact still remains that the White Sox were only 5 ½ games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers in the American League Central at the moment their game against the Cubs ended. They were just four back at the start of the week.

“I just look at it like we haven’t even come close to clicking on all cylinders for even a week or two just to see how good we can get,” Konerko said. “As far as games ahead or behind, it’s really irrelevant. To be doing what we’ve been doing all year, it’s nice, I guess. I guess that’s the bright spot. But we know that if we don’t shape up, that’s not going to stay there. Other teams will play better and you got to up your game and do it.”

The defense, the offense and the bullpen have all had their issues over the first two months. Now this week, the starting pitching stumbled. There might be too many parts of their game the White Sox have to fix at one time.

This was supposed to be a time of the schedule that would help the White Sox to get healthy again. They are in a stretch of 32 games where they face just one team that is over .500. What isn’t so great is that they face that one team, the Oakland Athletics, seven times over the next 10 games.

“We’ve just got to get better,” Konerko said just before the bus departed for the flight to Oakland. “We’re doing a lot of things not great. It’s been like this before. I’ve been on teams where a couple years ago we went 25-5 in 30 games. You never know when that run can hit, so you keep grinding.”