The White Sox say they’re trying to maintain an edge heading into the postseason, but it didn’t look like it in a 6-0 loss to the Indians on Saturday night at Progressive Field.
It was the Indians who set the tone when Myles Straw led off with a “hustle” double in the first inning against Lance Lynn. Straw’s ground ball glanced under shortstop Tim Anderson’s backhand, and when Anderson was slow to retrieve it in short left field, with left fielder Eloy Jimenez taking his time charging in to pick the ball up, Straw slid into second without a play.
Third baseman Yoan Moncada made a flat-footed throwing error on a relatively routine ground ball in the third, and Anderson and second baseman Cesar Hernandez double-clutched on infield singles that set the tone for a three-run sixth inning.
“We were back on our heels; the other team beat us to the punch offensively and defensively,” manager Tony La Russa said. “That’s not how we play.”
Anderson has been the Sox’ “igniter” and energy source, but he had a wonky night in the field — he also mishandled a soft liner before scrambling for a forceout — and went 0-for-4, chasing pitches out of the strike zone leading off the game against Eli Morgan on a night in which the Sox were held to three hits. Moncada’s defense has been Gold Glove-caliber at times this season, so both aforementioned plays were out of sorts on the left side of the infield.
But this is no time to relax, La Russa said before the game, even with the American League Central wrapped up two days earlier. The Sox have scored four runs in three games since belting four home runs while clinching in Game 1 of a doubleheader Thursday.
“Hit the ball in the strike zone and don’t chase,” La Russa said. “We can’t strike out like we’ve been striking out. Have better at-bats.
“The important thing is to compete as hard as you can. Can’t lose that edge. Can’t back off and get soft and try to turn it on a week from now. Got to compete.”
After Straw’s double, Saturday’s competition was basically over when Jose Ramirez hit a Lynn two-seam fastball that drifted over the middle of the plate into the right-field seats. No. 9 hitter Andres Gimenez homered off a Lynn cutter in the third. Those were the only pitches the Sox’ likely Game 1 starter in the AL Division Series was unhappy with — there wasn’t much hard contact beyond the homers — and his biggest concern was a back issue, which warranted a visit from trainer James Kruk while he warmed up before the fifth inning.
Lynn said it probably stemmed from a sore knee that landed him on the injured list earlier this month.
“Just a little, I wouldn’t even call it a tug, it just felt weird for a second,” Lynn said. “Once I threw a couple more pitches, I was good to go.”
Meanwhile, Morgan (4-7, 5.27 ERA) allowed one hit in six scoreless innings. Moncada had a leadoff double in the fifth.
Lynn (10-6, 2.72 ERA) plowed through six innings and 105 pitches.
“Everything is right where it needs to be for one more tuneup before the playoffs,” Lynn said.
The Sox have seven more games to tune up, and they can’t let up, closer Liam Hendriks said.
“We can focus and knuckle down and kind of turn these last couple of weeks into something productive and make sure we get all that momentum going into the playoffs,” Hendriks said. “That’s our biggest thing now.”
Lynn probably wouldn’t disagree. But he’s looking forward to getting home after an 11-game road trip wraps up with a makeup game Monday in Detroit.
“Everything is good,” Lynn said when asked about the Sox’ lackluster performance.