ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – It’s go time for the White Sox, and to a man, they know it.
But all they seem to do is go two steps back. Their deflating 5-4 loss against the Tampa Bay Rays and Chris Archer left them at 28-32. Sixty games into a disappointing season, an extended hot streak is a must to bring them into the playoff picture they expected to be in.
“From a club standpoint and media and fan standpoint, yeah, there is a sense of urgency because it’s not early any more,’’ first baseman Adam LaRoche said Saturday. “We’re coming up on the All-Star break.’’
The Sox haven’t hit much or played playoff-caliber defense, to be sure. No one has a magic formula to fix it. It just has to happen.
“From the player’s side there is no easy answer, like ‘let’s turn on the offense and score six, seven runs a game,’ ‘’ LaRoche, a 35-year-old veteran, said.
The problem with urgency is it doesn’t make you play baseball better, LaRoche said.
“There’s always a sense of urgency,’’ he said. “And then when you go play with a sense of urgency it gets worse.’’
Alexei Ramirez had an exasperating day at shortstop, triple-clutching on a ground ball hit right at him and not getting the ball out of his glove and settling on a throw to first that allowed the go-ahead run to score in the eighth.
After Conor Gillaspie’s pinch two-run homer against reliever Brad Boxberger gave the Sox a 4-3 lead in the bottom of top of the eighth, the Rays scored two runs against Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka after two were out, the go-ahead run scoring on an ill-advised backhand flip by Ramirez.
David DeJesus had singled to center, stole second without a play (the Sox have thrown out four of 42 base stealers) and scored on Steven Souza’s single to left. Souza then stole second, and after an intentional walk to Asdrubal Cabrera, Souza scored from second on Jake Elmore’s infield single behind the bag.
Ramirez went to the ground to make the stop and made a careless backhand flip that went wide of second baseman Gordon Beckham, allowing Souza to score from second. Ramirez was charged with an error.
Whether Ramirez is making things worse by trying to do too much or play with too much urgency as LaRoche alluded to wasn’t know. He wasn’t available to reporters afterward.
Sixty games into the season, the Sox seem to have given the blueprint for who they are but LaRoche says not necessarily – they can be better.
“Defense, absolutely,’’ he said. “Whether it’s physical or mental, mistakes on defense have cost us some runs. Offensively, if everyone in this lineup puts up their normal year then we should be in pretty good shape.
Rays starter Chris Archer, coming off an historic stretch of three starts with 38 strikeouts and no walks (first time in the modern era), had a streak of 107 batters stopped when pinch hitter Adam Eaton walked before Gillaspie’s homer.
The Sox have enough talent, LaRoche said.
“I’ve been on teams that needed two or three guys to have breakout years to be good. That’s when it’s tough,’’ he said.
“Myself included, if we all put up our typical years we should score runs.’’
LaRoche, hitting .241 with eight homers and 24 RBI from the cleanup spot, is one of those not having a typical year.
“I feel good, not great. And it’s frustrating.’’
Bench coach Mark Parent, managing in place of Robin Ventura who is attending his daughter’s graduation, said Ramirez cares and the effort is there.
“But he does need to make those plays,’’ Parent said. “He’s made them before. It seems like things like that happen too often. Not just to him but to us that end up adding outs, adding baserunners and not getting outs. Those things are adding up too frequently. We have to correct it. We have to play better.’’