MINNEAPOLIS – When your ace takes the mound to open a four-game series against the team picked to finish last in the division, you figure it’s your night to win.
You almost have to. Or least be in the game.
A day after they were out of it in the first inning with Jeff Samardzija pitching, the White Sox were flattened 12-2 by the Minnesota Twins, who tagged Chris Sale for nine runs (eight earned) in three innings, the shortest outing of his career that wasn’t cut short by rain.
Sale was admittedly bad and the team defending behind him was bad.
“It just has to be better,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “We have to clean it up. Both sides of the ball have to be good.’’
Sale’s teammates offered little assistance, botching a routine two-out ground ball (Alexei Ramirez) before allowing Danny Santana to score from first on Brian Dozier’s single. How? Santana was running on the pitch, and when center fielder Adam Eaton hesitated as Santana approached third, the Twins shortstop kept on going. Cutoff man Jose Abreu had no play when he couldn’t come up with Eaton’s throw.
“You’ve got to play good defense behind Sailor,’’ Eaton said. “He’s a great pitcher and sometimes he’s not as on as he can be … and when you can make plays behind him it’s going to help him out and I didn’t do that. That doesn’t fly in the big leagues.’’
Eaton (.192), who is having a rough month, had a rough night. He made a good effort but couldn’t hold on to Joe Mauer’s to liner in the gap that went for a double to lead off the third. A walk and a single later, Eaton charged and gloved Eduardo Escobar’s single and throwing home almost hit the screen behind home plate on the fly, the ball bouncing off the wall toward the Twins dugout.
After the game, he shaved off his beard.
“That guy sucked,’’ he said. “Gotta get rid of him.”
Brian Dozier’s three-run homer three batters later made it 9-2. Sale finished the inning but that was it. His night was over after 73 pitches, 56 for strikes. He walked two and gave up nine hits.’’
“I just stunk really. I was just bad, leaving pitches up,’’ said Sale, who relied mostly on his fastball and changeup.
“Left some changeups up. Fastballs over the middle of the plate. Just didn’t put guy away when I should have or had the chance.’’
Sale would have none of the excuse that his defense failed him.
“Don’t judge my teammates on what I put them in,’’ he said. “I was bad. I gave up nine hits. There’s no defending that.’’
The Sox offense, meanwhile, which hasn’t got untracked in the season’s first month, collected 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings against Twins right-hander Trevor May. RBI singles by Cabrera and Abreu accounted for the Sox runs in the third inning.
Sale went into the game with a 2-0 record and 2.37 ERA. It was his first game since he faced the Royals in the brawl game in which he got ejected last Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field.
So it’s not that the Sox don’t have any fight in them. And it’s not the manager’s fault, catcher Tyler Flowers said when asked about how poor reflects on Ventura.
“I don’t look at it as the manager although he’s captain of the ship,” Flowers said. “It’s more about the organization. It’s not how we play baseball here. Even if we’re not going to win games we need to compete and do things the right way. That’s where we’re at right now, having that focus on every play, every pitch, which will turn into good results and winning games.
“I imagine [a team meeting is] coming soon. They’re not consistent ones but when situations or games dictate needing one [Ventura’s] definitely not afraid to let us know what he thinks. So I’d expect one probably sooner.’’