White Sox hit three homers, but Samardzija allows pair in 6-4 loss to Indians
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Amid the buzz and heightened anticipation at SoxFest last winter, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was a voice of reason.
He had written sizable checks to sign David Robertson (four years, $46 million), Melky Cabrera (three years, $42 million), Adam LaRoche (two years, $25 million) and Zach Duke (three years, $15 million) and approved a trade for Jeff Samardzija, a $9.8 million one-year rental.
Those moves, after trying seasons of 99 and 89 losses, seemed to fill needs that many — general manager Rick Hahn, manager Robin Ventura and pumped-up fans soaking it in at the team’s fan convention included — thought would have the Sox playing meaningful games in September.
But Reinsdorf, recalling ’06, when he added Jim Thome to a world-championship roster, knew his 2015 additions guaranteed nothing.
‘‘I really had visions of back-to-back [titles],’’ he told a SoxFest audience. ‘‘It’s a funny game.
“You can’t get too excited in advance. You have to play the games.’’
Eight months later, before 11,667 fans at U.S. Cellular Field, Samardzija was pitching more for a contract (he’ll likely become a free agent this offseason) than postseason hopes with the Sox.
Samardzija’s night, like too many this season, didn’t go so well. He gave up his 25th and 26th homers of the season to set career high set in 2013 with the Cubs, in the Sox’ 6-4 loss against the Indians. Samardzija (9-12, 4.89 ERA) allowed four runs over 6 2/3 innings and left trailing 4-3.
The homers, by Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, were solos but “they count, too,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “If you have a lead you can play with those but if you don’t have the lead those solos cost you.
“That’s been tough for him in the last couple, being able to keep that in the yard and limit things.’’
It’s safe to say Reinsdorf expected better, not only from Samardzija but all over the field.
At 79, and in his 35th year as Sox chairman, he is said to covet a second World Series title to go with his six NBA titles as chairman of the Bulls, but the best the Sox have done since the 2005 championship is one playoff appearance in ’08, bowing to the Rays three games to one in the American League Division Series.
Reinsdorf rarely, if ever, speaks publicly about the Sox’ performance. But he wants answers to what has gone wrong in 2015, Hahn says.
“Very much so,’’ Hahn said. “Jerry is very, very focused on not only what’s happened over the last six months here — obviously he was heavily invested, heavily involved over the offseason putting this together. But perhaps as important, he wants to know where it’s headed and what our plan is to get ourselves back on track to where we want to be.’’
And what exactly does he want?
“It’s to get this thing right as quickly as possible,’’ Hahn said. “Put us in position to win, ideally, multiple World Series as quickly as possible.
“He’s very focused on that.’’
In these last weeks, Hahn and Ventura will eyeball rookies Trayce Thompson and Tyler Saladino, both of whom homered against Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin, to determine where they might fit in a 2016 plan.
Thompson, playing right field, also made a nice diving catch — but later let a base hit go through him as he charged and set up to throw home, allowing two runs to score. Jose Abreu hit his 27th homer but, playing first base, also conceded a run first when he appeared to have Lindor caught between third and home in the first, the latest example of Samardzija’s defense doing him few favors this season.
“I thought I made some big pitches and had some nice easy innings and just got a little snake bit there with a couple of those homers that put us down one too many runs,’’ Samardzija said.
And so it goes for the Sox in 2015. Even when good things or a hot streak happens, a bad thing or cold streak isn’t far behind for a team Robertson calls the streakiest he has played on.
“You think you have a better understanding [of why that is], but if you really did, it wouldn’t happen,’’ Ventura said.