The wound created by the Mariners’ seven-run, game-changing sixth inning was still fresh, and White Sox manager Tony La Russa was picking at it in the wake of an 8-4 loss at T-Mobile Park on Wednesday.
“I did a really lousy job of managing that inning,” La Russa said. “There were chances to win."
La Russa’s self-critique was pointed and will surely generate plenty of conversation ahead of the South Siders’ home opener Thursday. La Russa admitted he left reliever Matt Foster, who let two inherited runners and another five runs come across, in the game too long.
Foster issued an 11-pitch walk to Ty France -- the sixth hitter he faced -- with the game tied at 4, yet remained in the game to give up a three-run double to Kyle Seager and an RBI single to José Marmolejos.
“I pushed [Foster] too far,” La Russa said. “Just stupid, lousy, no excuse.”
But of course, there is plenty of blame to go around with regard to the Sox’s disappointing 3-4 start to the season. Bumbled balls, errant throws, baserunning blunders and missed offensive opportunities have dotted the White Sox early days, and Wednesday -- a day when Chicago made two more errors, stranded nine runners on the bases and squandered a three-run lead -- was no different.
“Sometimes I see too much potential in this team every day,” said starter Dallas Keuchel, who took a no-decision after five-plus innings. “When we don’t win, it’s a disappointment, just because I know we’re capable of winning each and every game. But there’s a couple things that we need to clean up that aren’t that big and, if you let it fester, it’ll be bigger than it is.”
Capitalization in the clutch is one.
The Sox drew eight walks in only 4 2/3 innings against Seattle starter Justin Dunn, but couldn’t capitalize with the kind of incendiary inning that the Mariners would later put together.
The Sox did have a chance in the seventh, when they loaded the bases against Kendall Graveman with none out. But Zack Collins popped out, and Luis Robert lined into an inning-ending double play in which José Abreu had strayed too far off the second-base bag.
In stranding nine runners in the Seattle series finale, the Sox extended their American League-leading left-on-base total to 55 in the young season.
Defense is another early concern, and it opened the door to Seattle’s big inning.
The Sox had a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the sixth, but, after Keuchel issued a leadoff walk to Marmolejos, Adam Eaton fielded a Dylan Moore single to shallow right and errantly threw to second, moving both runners into scoring position.
That was the seventh error committed by the Sox in seven games. That’s an uncomfortable pace (especially if you’re Robert, who memorably had a ball bounce off his head in center field in Anaheim). And they’ve had non-error mishaps, too, such as when Nick Madrigal bobbled a potential double-play ball and Andrew Vaughn could not make a running catch in the left-field corner when the Sox surrendered a three-run lead in the third inning of Tuesday’s win over the Mariners.
Last year, the White Sox tied with the Cubs for sixth-most defensive runs saved in MLB, per Baseball-Reference, despite making 40 errors in the 60-game season. So there is hope for a turnaround. But the early results have been particularly porous.
“You play six months, and the talent will show itself,” La Russa said. “We have a good defensive team. I think there were a couple rough plays in the first series that were not as routine as they looked and caused concern. But we have a good defense. There’s no downward trend that our fans should be concerned about.”
The only issue that seemed to concern La Russa in the aftermath of Wednesday’s loss was his own management. And there was no doubt that he let the sixth inning get away from him.
But the Sox have let a handful of innings get away from them in the early going for a variety of reasons, exacerbating the difficulty of a season-opening road trip in which they lost star shortstop Tim Anderson to a hamstring injury after already losing Eloy Jiménez to a ruptured pectoral late in spring camp.
“We’ve got a few guys down, and we’re trying to make stuff happen instead of just letting stuff happen,” Keuchel said. “We need to react to the game and what it brings us.”