The White Sox are 6-9 after a 6-2 start, and those first eight games were quite impressive, considering their long list of injuries.
And then a seven-game losing streak happened, the last six on a road trip that left them packing for home in a quiet clubhouse after a stunning 6-4 loss in 10 innings to the Twins on Sunday.
The scowl on Aaron Bummer’s face, devouring a sandwich while still in uniform after he failed to protect the lead, strongly suggested he enjoyed not a bite. Tim Anderson quietly answered questions, and Lucas Giolito, a thoughtful sort and leader of the pitching staff, scratched his head trying to assess the damage.
“It’s been a [crappy] week,” Giolito said.
“Use the day off [Monday] to our advantage and kind of hit the reset button. It’s very early in the season.
“A day to be back home, with families, clear our heads and then have a nice fresh start to the week Tuesday, a new series at home. Yeah, it will be useful.”
The day off offers a break to size up the main talking points of the first 15 of 162 games for a team with World Series aspirations.
Four runs with two homers Sunday felt like an avalanche of offense after the Sox had averaged two runs in their previous nine games. Leury Garcia is batting .098, Josh Harrison .107, Yasmani Grandal .136, Luis Robert .205 and Jose Abreu .216.
Hitting is contagious. So are slumps.
“All of a sudden, runners are in scoring position, you hit the ball hard and you don’t get a hit, and now the snowball effect starts happening,” hitting coach Frank Menechino said. “You’ve got to pull yourself together mentally first before you get out of this.”
The Sox have taken a more aggressive approach at the plate this season, and it shows in their walk total, 33, which ranks 29th in the majors. Through Sunday, they were last in the American League in runs and on-base percentage.
A major-league worst 18 errors, led by Anderson’s six and Garcia’s three, says it all. The Royals, as a team, have half as many errors as Anderson. Reese McGuire shored up the catching and Robert is a top-notch center fielder, but a defense that sometimes features converted first basemen Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets in the corners at the same time won’t remind anyone of the 2015 Royals.
Just how bad Eloy Jimenez’s hamstring is and how long he’ll be out — at length for the second time in two seasons — will be revealed Tuesday. It’s only the latest in a huge injury count that includes Yoan Moncada (oblique) from the every-day lineup, Lance Lynn (knee surgery) from the rotation and Garrett Crochet, Joe Kelly and Ryan Burr from the bullpen. Giolito missed two starts, Robert (groin) missed the last three games, Harrison (shoulder) was out the last four games and AJ Pollock (hamstring) has played in four.
Manager Tony La Russa found himself loudly questioned, on the NBCSCH postgame show and elsewhere, for batting the struggling Garcia third and second over a three-game stretch on the trip and for allowing two-time Reliever of the Year Liam Hendriks to pitch to Byron Buxton with first base open in the 10th inning Sunday. Buxton hit a 3-1 pitch for a three-run homer.
La Russa knows it comes with the territory. And the players know it’s on them when they don’t execute pitches, botch routine ground balls and fail to hit in the clutch.
“He wasn’t the one out there fielding the ground balls; he wasn’t out there hitting,” Anderson said.
The Sox play the Royals and Angels on the homestand, then have two games against the Cubs at Wrigley Field next Tuesday and Wednesday. They’re saying it’s only April, but they know they shouldn’t wait till May to correct things.
“With the group we have, we just come together and go play good baseball next week,” Giolito said, “and set the tone there. And keep building.”
ROYALS AT SOX
Tuesday: Daniel Lynch (1-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 15.00), 6:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM.
Wednesday: Zack Greinke (0-1, 2.25) vs. Dylan Cease (2-1, 3.38), 6:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM.
Thursday: Brad Keller (0-2, 2.55) vs. Michael Kopech (0-0, 0.64), 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM.