Lance Lynn was one out away Saturday from further validating his return to prominence, as well as providing his White Sox teammates with a legitimate chance to mount a rally that would alleviate the constant shortcomings that have clouded their frustrating season.
But in a span of three batters, Lynn allowed a walk and an infield single before hitting Trey Mancini with the bases loaded.
And Austin Hays followed with a three-run triple off Junior Ruiz to cap a four-run seventh inning that sent the White Sox to another deflating loss 6-2.
The setback extended the Sox’s losing streak to four games, matching their longest home skid since Aug. 8-15, 2020. The Sox rebounded nicely to earn a 2020 American League playoff berth, but the array of inconsistencies raise questions whether they can mount a semblance of a winning trend before many of their core players return from the injured list and ahead of a 19-game stretch in which they will play AL Central opponents starting July 4, including 15 against the division-leading Guardians and Twins.
“You put a handful of good games together and then all of a sudden you lose a couple in a row, so it’s always a bummer because you feel like you’re so close to getting on a roll,” catcher Reese McGuire said.
The offense has scored three runs in its last three losses to the Orioles, who entered Saturday’s game with a 4.10 ERA – 12th in the AL.
The offense sputtered without Tim Anderson, who was given the day off to rest his sore legs. Eloy Jiménez went 1-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs Saturday in his fourth game on a minor league rehab assignment for Triple-A Charlotte, but the Sox are careful about making sure Jimenez doesn’t sustain another setback in his recovery from hamstring surgery.
Before the game, manager Tony La Russa said he could win with his current group, but the persistent struggles create a more daunting challenge now that the Guardians have caught the Twins at the top of the division.
General manager Rick Hahn said Monday the Sox have identified their needs as they move closer to the Aug. 2 trade deadline, but the three-month stagnation can’t alleviate their sense of urgency or preference to keep some of their top prospects and win at the same time.
After a single by Leury Garcia in the fourth, the Sox didn’t muster another hit until Luis Robert hit a double with one out in the eighth.
La Russa made one subtle change to the lineup, giving second baseman Lenyn Sosa his first major league start. In the third, Sosa reached base on an error and advanced to third on a single by Robert. When Sosa noticed that shortstop Jorge Mateo muffled a relay throw, Sosa burst toward home and scored the tying run.
But mistakes continue to haunt the Sox. Garcia botched a grounder by Cedric Mullins that allowed the Orioles to take the lead for good in the sixth.
That put more scrutiny on Lynn, who entered the seventh with 86 pitches, and La Russa.
“I was confident (the seventh) was his inning,” La Russa said of Lynn, who struck out a season-high eight strikeouts and generated 23 swings and misses out of 109 pitches.
In an ironic twist, La Russa aid he would have employed high-leverage reliever Joe Kelly in the eighth with a one-run deficit had Lynn escaped the seventh unscathed.
“We were that close to winning the game,” La Russa said.
Instead, “It felt like a loss,” Lynn said. “That’s the only way to look at it. We’ve got to be better, I’ve got to finish outings. That’s where I’m at right now. Stuff’s there, I’ve just got to finish outings.”