TORONTO — It’s to the point where the White Sox and their non-threatening lineup are just trying to keep their heads above water on this road trip against two tough American League East teams.
But the Sox aren’t even doing a good job of that.
Their 8-3 loss to the streaking Blue Jays Thursday afternoon at Rogers Centre capped a three-game sweep for Toronto, which won for the eighth time in a row.
The Sox fell to 23-26, losing for the fifth time in six games. They not only trail the Twins by 4½ games, but now are in third place looking up at the Guardians. A heavy favorite during spring training to repeat as division champs, the Sox are banged up with numerous core players injured, and the feeling on the coaching staff and in the clubhouse is that better results are ahead.
“There are still four months to go, so we have to keep battling and fighting every day,” said Johnny Cueto, who gave up four runs (three earned) in a tough matchup with Cy Young candidate Alek Manoah.
The Sox also know they can’t afford to let themselves get buried too deep in June. A series at the 30-21 Rays is next, followed by the NL West-leading Dodgers at home. That’s a tough assignment for a team with a run differential of minus-55, the fifth-worst in the majors.
As if the injuries weren’t enough, All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson went on the injured list Sunday, and the Sox haven’t won since.
“We know who’s missing,” manager Tony La Russa said. “But we also know the guys who are here are good enough to win games.
“Our guys know the games count and nobody is feeling sorry for us. You have to play your way through it. You have to find a way to win some games.”
After being dominated by Manoah for seven innings, the Sox made a game of it in the eighth, cutting a 4-0 deficit to 4-3 on Luis Robert’s two-run double and Yoan Moncada’s RBI single with two out in the eighth. La Russa noted his team “tasted victory” in all three games.
“Those are the ones that get at you most,” La Russa said.
But getting a taste of it Thursday was brief. The Jays responded with four runs in the eighth against Reynaldo Lopez and Aaron Bummer to make it 8-3, putting the game on ice. The eighth could have been a job for Kendall Graveman, but he couldn’t go to Toronto because of vaccination requirements in Canada.
The Sox had a good shot against Manoah in the first inning when Leury Garcia and Robert opened with singles, but Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal struck out in RBI spots. Grandal fanned looking with the bases loaded to start a streak of 16 batters retired in a row by Manoah (three runs allowed in 7‰ innings).
Cueto, in his fourth start, allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings. Teoscar Hernandez’ two-run homer in the sixth put the Sox in a 4-0 hole.
So where do the Sox go from here?
“What you do is you get angry,” La Russa said. “You don’t get frustrated, you don’t get discouraged. You don’t pout. You just get angry, maybe not an anger where you break things but do something about it and get ready to play Friday.”
“It’s difficult right now,” said Moncada, who is getting over his sore quad. “It’s a process. We’ll get through it.”
The Sox were ravaged by injuries last season, too, but they survived extended losses of Robert and Eloy Jimenez, who is out again this season, and won the Central.
“We’ve been here before so we kind of know how to get out of it,” Grandal said.
Now would be a good time.