Perhaps it was manager Tony La Russa’s way of putting lipstick on a pig.
Or maybe he was genuinely moved by what he saw from his team in a walk-off loss to the Angels late Sunday night, the White Sox’ third defeat in four games of an eventful, dramatic and — for a Southern California weekend in April — tense series.
But La Russa went out of his way to lift the spirits of his Sox, who lost shortstop Tim Anderson for an undetermined time with a hamstring injury in the first inning, survived a riveting two-way, made-for-TV performance by Shohei Ohtani on ESPN and tied it in the ninth inning. Never mind that the tying run came when Angels closer Raisel Iglesias, sparing second baseman Nick Madrigal the embarrassment of getting trapped between second and third on a comebacker to the mound, threw the ball away, allowing Madrigal to score.
Angels folly was the only way the Sox, 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position with no RBI, got their runs.
“I love the guts of this club, and we played courageously,” La Russa said before the team boarded a plane for Seattle to open a three-game series against the Mariners on Monday night. “I just told them upstairs, this is one of the most impressive losses that I can remember being a part of.”
Four games represent 1/40th of the season and keeping in mind that the Sox started 1-4 last year before finishing 35-25 to make their first postseason since 2008 should discourage alarm. But there was no getting around how a team so outspoken about how good it is didn’t show it in Anaheim — Yermin Mercedes’ historic 8-for-8 start notwithstanding — in the categories of starting pitching, relief pitching, hitting and defense.
The Sox say they are unfazed.
“It’s something that’s a part of the game; I don’t think we have to be worried or concerned,” Yoan Moncada said about the defense but undoubtedly having the same answer about the other elements. “We know what we can do. We’re good. We’re going to overcome this moment, the struggles from the first few games. We’re going to be good.”
The deepest a starter went was Lucas Giolito with 5⅔ innings on Opening Day, a 4-3 loss. Dallas Keuchel went four innings, and Lance Lynn, let down by his defense, needed 99 pitches to get through 4⅔. And Dylan Cease, after a great spring capped by an 11-strikeout performance against the Rockies on the last day giving hope that he was primed for a breakout year, looked very much like the Cease of 2020 with 4⅔ innings.
A highly touted bullpen blew two leads.
Five errors (Madrigal, Luis Robert, Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton twice) created seven unearned runs, and only Abreu’s came on a tough chance. Robert had a shallow fly ball bounce off his head, Eaton just whiffed on a fly toward the line and Madrigal threw wide of second on a forceout. Each was costly.
And despite Mercedes going 9-for-14 with two doubles, a homer and six RBI, the Sox hit .241/.327/.362 in the series.
With lefties Justus Sheffield and James Paxton starting Monday and Tuesday for the Mariners, the Sox’ lineup was looking for a jump start. They were 15-0 against lefty starters last year and scored four runs in the first four innings Monday for lefty Carlos Rodon, who struck out eight over four scoreless innings.
“We the same,” Anderson said Monday. “Everybody’s positive; everybody’s energy’s still good. It ain’t about how you start; it’s how you finish. We’re going to be all right. We’re just fine. It’s only four games, first series.
“We’ve just got to keep pushing, man, and hopefully things will start clicking this series, and we’ll pick one another up and keep going.”