TORONTO – The White Sox opened an 11-game road trip Monday that, if this keeps up, could effectively bury them before they get home again on June 5.
The AL Central’s last-place team wasn’t hitting when it left the country and it wasn’t fielding well, either. In a 6-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, they made another defensive blunder that led to a four-run Jays first and scratched out only four hits against Drew Hutchison, who entered with a 6.06 ERA but “looked like [former Jays Cy Young winner] Pat Hentgen,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
Coming off a 2-5 homestand which left Adam LaRoche characterizing the team’s performance as “embarrassing.” Ventura added “frustrating” and “disappointing” before Monday’s game, and there was more to come — only three batters into the latest lackluster defeat.
“The only thing really good about the game was it was fast,’’ a perturbed Ventura said of the two hour, 10 minute game. “That was it. We weren’t very good offensively. We weren’t good defensively in that situation, and you’re going to end up losing the game.’’
“That situation” was a missed double play. The Jays (21-26), who have issues of their own, opened against starter Hector Noesi with a Jose Reyes double and a walk to Josh Donaldson. When Noesi got Edwin Encarnacion to roll a double-play grounder to second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, shortstop Alexei Ramirez missed second base while making a 360-degree spin move around the bag — and only Encarnacion was out at first.
What exactly happened from Ramirez’ viewpoint was uncertain because the veteran shortstop declined to talk to reporters after the game.
“I don’t know what the purpose was,’’ Ventura said of Ramirez’s spin-o-rama.
Noesi, who would finish his outing with five scoreless innings through the seventh, could have been out of the first with no damage an out later, and when Chris Colabello singled in two runs and Justin Smoak followed with a two-run homer, the would-be DP looked like a missed opportunity costing Noesi four runs.
“He’s out of the inning if we end up playing clean in that first inning,’’ Ventura said. “He battled, and I thought he did a good job right after that.’’
Armed with a four-run lead that became five when Josh Donaldson hit his 10th homer in the second inning, Hutchison had his way with a lineup that hasn’t produced three runs in a game since May 17. He struck out eight and walked none, so maybe the Sox lose 1-0 if they get the double play.
“We’re frustrated and disappointed. You can put that in there,’’ Ventura said before the game of a team that was built to win during the offseason but ranked 28th among 30 major league teams in run differential at minus-47. “But it’s more frustration of being where you’re at. It has to be cleaner and better.’’
Ramirez’ play was just the latest from a team that hasn’t, but for a few spurts, played clean defense. With no punch in the lineup, every defensive miscue is glaring. Ramirez bobbled another double-play grounder in the Jays’ eighth that probably cost another run.
Not that it mattered for a team that can’t score.
It’s hard either way to point at one particular aspect,’’ Ventura said. “To play winning baseball, you have to be able to pitch, score some runs and play defense better.’’
The Sox (19-23), who have the discouraging task of trying to make up ground in a division that has dominated them, don’t have the AL Central to worry about on this trip. After two more in Toronto they play a makeup doubleheader in Baltimore on Thursday, then three games against the AL West-leading Houston Astros and three against the Texas Rangers, who have won six in a row.
It’s play better now, or else.
“They know it, and it’s got to change or you’re going to lose games,’’ Ventura said.