MINNEAPOLIS – Saturday it was Jeff Samardzija. On Sunday Jose Abreu said the same thing:
The White Sox have manager Robin Ventura’s back, and they place the blame on the team’s horrible 8-14 start squarely on their own shoulders.
“We cannot blame Robin for the situation of the team,’’ Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s our fault because we are the ones who are playing. We are the people who are in the field. We are not doing the things right.’’
Sunday’s 13-3 loss, the Sox’ fifth in a row and a completion of a four-game Twins sweep, was nothing short of awful. Four errors, 19 hits allowed by Sox pitchers and more pitter-patter offense.
“It’s a bad week. There’s no way around it,’’ Ventura said. ”We played bad baseball.”
The seven-run third inning was the baddest. Starter John Danks made one error covering first base and another throwing to second. Second baseman Micah Johnson threw past shortstop Alexei Ramirez on a double-play grounder, and catcher Geovany Soto underhanded a throw over pitcher Dan Jennings after a pitch in the dirt skipped away, allowing a run to score.
A comedy of four errors, indeed. And the fourth inning wasn’t even over. Later on, reliever Zach Putnam turned around and had a Torii Hunter comebacker bounce off his rear end for an infield hit. It was that kind of day.
“You scratch your head looking at it,’’ Ventura said. “You do everything we do in spring training for a month and a half and it looks like this.”
It follows an off-season that created great optimism for the club and its fan base. On the first day of spring training Ventura said he expected to make the playoffs, and general manager Rick Hahn echoed that.
When told of Abreu’s sentiments before Sunday’s game, Ventura said nobody is playing the blame game in the Sox clubhouse.
“I don’t think anybody is sitting around here and pointing fingers at somebody,’’ he said. “It’s a team game we play and we all have to do our part, I do, the players do, everybody does.’’
Ventura’s even manner is what players and management above him see as a plus. If he’s bothered by criticism, he’s not showing it.
“No. It doesn’t help us today trying to win a game,’’ he said. “The focus today is trying to win today, not anything that’s happening in the future.’’
Samardzija, like Abreu, also defended the manager. His ERA is the only one among the starting pitchers under 5.
“No. That’s not part of the question whatsoever,’’ Samardzija said. “The staff is doing an amazing job in preparation and when that first pitch is thrown it’s up to the 25 guys in the dugout to win the game.’’
“If the people want someone to blame, it’s the players not Robin,’’ Abreu said.
The Sox rank last in the American League in runs (70) and home runs (12). Going into Sunday they were second-to-last in on-base percentage (.292) and slugging percentage (.345). They’re also last with four stolen bases.
While it’s difficult to gauge how much a manager means to a team’s success or failure, balance is one thing Ventura has no shortage of.
“I really love to play for Robin because he’s a friend, he’s a brother, he’s like a father in some situations,’’ Abreu said. “He lets you play your game.’’
After he struck out the side in the first inning, Danks’ (1-3) game was also a dud. He last 2 1/3 innings, giving up seven runs (three earned) on eight hits, including Trevor Plouffe’s first career grand slam.
“The pitchers aren’t giving ourselves too much of a chance to win the game,” Danks said.
“It’s not Robin’s fault. I feel bad for him because he’s working as hard as the rest of us. He’s not throwing the ball, swinging it or trying to catch it.
“We didn’t see this coming. We knew we had to play good baseball. A lot of season left but definitely don’t want to dig too deep of a hole. We have to pick it up.’’