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Sox' offensive inconsistency brings renewed focus on bad defense

BY TONI GINNETTI

Home runs have been the White Sox’ calling card in recent years. Unfortunately, poor defense also has become a team characteristic.

A powerful offense can sometimes make up for defensive shortcomings. But with home-run numbers down, the Sox’ defensive ills are magnified.

“We work on [our defense] all the time,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “We come out here early, and you try to improve that. Sometimes we’re better than other times. But when you shoot yourself in the foot, it’s hard to get that confidence back.’’

An error by center fielder Adam Eaton proved costly Sunday in the Sox’ 8-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

He missed Joe Mauer’s fly ball — a “no excuses’’ play, Ventura said — in the Twins’ four-run fourth inning.

“A big inning I created,’’ Eaton said. “That play needs to be made. My eye was wandering a bit [on Shane Robinson at second base], but I’ve made that play 100 times.’’

The Sox have seen the exhilaration of a six-game winning streak evaporate in a 2-5 homestand.

They dropped back-to-back series for the first time — to the Central Division rival Cleveland Indians and Twins, no less.

“It’s extremely frustrating,’’ first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “We’re not just getting beat — we’re beating ourselves and making good pitchers look great. It’s embarrassing.’’

Twins starter Kyle Gibson (4-3) has been great twice against the Sox this month alone, replicating his eight-inning performance from May 1 with another eight.

He limited the Sox to designated hitter Jose Abreu’s solo home run in the fourth. They had only three other hits.

“He kept pumping strikes,’’ Ventura said.

Gibson equaled his career best with eight strikeouts, walking none.

Sox starter Jose Quintana (2-5) was in a hole immediately when leadoff man Brian Dozier homered on the second pitch. He hit another three-run homer in the seventh off Scott Carroll.

The Sox scored only 15 runs during the seven-game homestand.

“We just didn’t play well, and they outplayed us,’’ Ventura said. “That much was pretty evident. They swung the bats coming out — the first guy homers. After that, they were able to string some hits together, and they did a good job.

“You give up that much, and it’s tough to come back, especially the way we’ve been swinging it.’’

Defensive improvement was an acknowledged priority for the Sox, but the stagnant offense was unexpected.

The Sox (19-22) are last in the American League in homers and RBI.

“It’s not been what we wanted so far, but you’re looking at guys and their track records of what they’ve done in their careers, and you’re expecting some more home runs out of them,’’ Ventura said. “Hopefully when it warms up, we have a chance to do that, but you look around, and other teams are doing it while we’re playing.

“It’s hard to just tell somebody to hit a home run. They would hit homers if they could. You can’t just ask them to do it, and they’re all of a sudden going to do it.’’

How do they turn it around?

“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.

“I don’t think anybody wants a day off right now. We want to get out there and get back on track.’’

The Sox begin an 11-game road trip Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays.