- Doug Padilla, Chicago White Sox beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- So much for that momentum the Chicago White Sox could have used before departing on a monster four-city road trip that takes them to two countries, the East Coast and the heart of Texas.
The White Sox were humbled yet again by the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, this time by an 8-1 score. It is the Twins’ sixth victory in seven tries against the White Sox since April 30. It was also the White Sox’s fifth defeat on a seven-game homestand.
“Extremely frustrating,” said Adam LaRoche, who was just 2-for-22 on the homestand. “We are not just getting beat, we are beating ourselves and making good pitchers look great. It’s embarrassing.”
And how's this for more embarrassment: Sunday's defeat put the White Sox in last place in the American League Central, by percentage points behind the Cleveland Indians, and eight games in back of the first-place Kansas City Royals.
Up next is an 11-game road trip that starts Monday at Toronto. The White Sox move on to Baltimore for Thursday’s make-up doubleheader, then it is three games at Houston and three more at Texas. They don't play at home again until June 5.
For a 19-22 club that thought it just figured out what ailed it by going 5-1 on its most recent road trip, the upcoming odyssey is poised to be a backbreaker before the season is even two months old.
A lack of patience at the plate and poor pitch recognition plagued the offense on the homestand, meaning all the progress the White Sox had made in those areas as of a week ago are out the window.
On defense, the White Sox also appeared to be improved, but mistakes and poor baseball instincts are giving opponents yet another advantage.
Adam Eaton, a Gold Glove finalist in center field last season, ran right past a line drive in the fourth inning Sunday leading to a four-run inning that allowed the Twins to take control of the game. That scoring outburst came after Twins leadoff man Brian Dozier opened the game with a home run on Jose Quintana’s second pitch of the afternoon.
Not only did the line drive to Eaton appear to knuckle on him, he also looked distracted by a base runner, with thoughts of completing a double play. Instead he got no outs and the Twins scored a run.
“I won’t be lying to you if I say my eyes were wandering a little bit,” Eaton said. “I’ve made that play 100 times and whatever happened to that ball, it didn’t find my mitt. I need to make the play and I didn’t do that.”
Sure, mistakes happen, but teams with a sense of urgency, like the Royals and now the Twins, either make fewer mistakes or cover their miscues with a determined level of play. For all of their talent, the White Sox aren’t playing anywhere near the determined level of some of their opponents.
“We just didn't play well and they outplayed us; that much was pretty evident,” manager Robin Ventura said. “They swung the bats. Coming out, the first guy, Dozier, homers. After that, they were able to string some hits together and they did a good job of that. They were on some stuff. They just seemed to hit the homer at the right time, getting base hits. You give up that much and it's tough to come back, especially with the way we've been swinging it.”
Dozier added another home run in the seventh inning, leaving a crowd of 30,180 convinced there would be no comeback this day. On Saturday, a packed house of 38,741 saw the White Sox drop a 4-3 decision to the Twins.
For a team that has struggled to garner fan support, the White Sox had just shy of 69,000 people come through the turnstiles in a two-day stretch only to send them away with the memory of a pair of defeats.
“We just need some good things to happen to get some momentum going,” LaRoche said. “We’ve been behind too many times in ballgames, missed opportunities early. Fortunately we’ve hung in there because we’ve come back and won quite a few of those games, but you can’t rely on that all the time. We need to start doing it early because right now we are not doing it at all.”
Through the first five weeks of the season, the White Sox were a far better home team than road team. But all that has shifted after a 5-1 road trip to Milwaukee and Oakland in mid-May, followed by the home struggles this past week.
The White Sox can only hope the road success is a trend that continues starting Monday.
“It’s only a matter of time before things start clicking,” an optimistic Eaton said. “We’ve been on kind of a funky wave. We were high with the six [consecutive victories] and we’re lower now losing two series. We’re looking forward to Toronto and having a good series there and hopefully we can rebound nicely and start getting things going. We’ve got to go to Baltimore for two, so hopefully we can find two wins there.”
That’s only going to happen if the White Sox start playing a far better brand of baseball. Embracing the challenge ahead will be the first step.
“That can be a good thing,” LaRoche said of the 11-game trip. “I don’t think anybody wants an off day right now. No, we want to get out there and get back on track. I’m not worried about that.”
Whatever gains the White Sox seemed to have made last week were lost during a disappointing 2-5 homestand.