MINNEAPOLIS – Shaky starting pitching, sporadic offense and shoddy defense have dropped the White Sox to a place they haven’t been in more than five years.
John Danks gave up a career-high four home runs and six earned runs in five innings and the Sox were beaten 8-4 by the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
“You can’t just point out one thing that’s gone wrong at this point,” said Danks (1-4).
He fell to 0-4 with a 7.29 ERA in four road starts this year. Nine of the 10 home runs he’s allowed have been on the road.
The Sox have lost seven of eight and 17 of 22 to fall 12 games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007 season, when they finished 72-90.
That was the only year in the history of the AL Central, which was created in 1994, the Sox have finished in fourth place. They’ve never finished last in the Central, but they’re well on their way this summer, with starting pitching joining this week the list of problems topped by fielding and scoring.
“I didn’t do us any favors today,” Danks said. “We’re just going to have to play better as a whole. We’re not saying anything we don’t already know or talked about. Guys are working hard trying to make it happen. It just hasn’t gone our way to this point.”
Besides Danks, starters Dylan Axelrod and Chris Sale had a rough series. Axelrod gave up 10 hits and four earned runs in six innings Tuesday; Sale allowed four earned runs on eight hits in five innings Wednesday.
The signs of struggle were not just limited to the mound. Gordon Beckham flew out with the bases loaded to end the fourth inning. Alejandro De Aza’s drag bunt attempt in the fifth inning sailed about 20 feet in the air all the way to Brian Dozier for an easy catch at second base. Then in the sixth, shortstop Alexei Ramirez let a soft two-out grounder get through his legs for an error. Two batters later, Justin Morneau’s two-run single with the bases loaded stretched the lead to 8-4. The Sox entered the game 14th in AL with a .981 fielding percentage.
“Anytime you’re giving them opportunities where they can score two by giving them extra outs you just can’t do it. That’s the one thing we were really good at that we’re failing to do this year,” said manager Robin Ventura.
Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn hit consecutive home runs against Scott Diamond (5-6) in the sixth inning, but that wasn’t nearly enough as the Sox were swept for the first time in Minnesota since Sept. 23-25, 2008. Diamond won for only the second time in his last eight starts.
The Sox entered the game third to last in the American League in batting (.241), last in hits (561) and last in runs (250). Through five innings, the Sox had as many hits as the Twins did home runs. The Sox sent no more than four men to the plate in six of nine innings.
Yet, like Wednesday, when it trailed 7-1 before scoring three runs in the seventh and eight innings to make it close, the Sox would not go away. With the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Alex Rios flew out to the warning track in left field.
“The game is hard enough when you’re playing well,” Ventura said. “When you’re not playing well you can see all the warts and everything else, but you see how hard the game is. You don’t take it for granted, you keep playing hard and eventually the sun comes out.”
The Sox are 1-6 on a 10-game road trip that started with four games in Houston and is scheduled to finish this weekend with three against the Royals.
“After Monday (a 4-2 win) I thought we were going to turn it around and have a couple big games here, but, obviously, that didn’t work out so we got to move to the next spot, forget about this series and see what we can do in Kansas City,” said reliever Jesse Crain, who established a franchise record with his 28th straight game without allowing a run.
The former Twins right-hander passed J.J. Putz’s mark from 2010. Crain, who has 37 strikeouts in 28 innings during the streak, has allowed only two runs all season, most recently on April 12.
Notes: The Sox optioned RHP Deunte Heath to Triple-A Charlotte. A corresponding roster move will be made Friday. Heath (0-0) has allowed 10 earned runs in 7 2-3 innings in five relief appearances over three stints with the Sox this season. ... Konerko has just three HRs and 14 RBIs since May 1. His career-low HR total for a full season is 18 in 2003, and he averaged 29.6 over his first 14 years with the White Sox. He has seven so far this season. ... The Sox are scheduled to send LHP Hector Santiago (2-5, 3.30 ERA) to the mound at Kauffman Stadium Friday. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (7-4, 3.72 ERA) will pitch for the Royals.