The Chicago White Sox suffered a unique walk-off loss on opening day in Detroit, when Javier Báez’s long fly to right was originally ruled a juggling catch by AJ Pollock before being correctly reversed to a game-winning hit.
The rest of April didn’t get much better.
The Sox wrapped up the month on a positive note Saturday with a 4-0 win against the Los Angeles Angels. It was only their second win in the last 12 games.
Starter Vince Velasquez was impressive in front of 33,762 at Guaranteed Rate Field, allowing four hits and striking out six in 5⅔ innings.
Tim Anderson led off the first with a home run and Luis Robert had a three-run homer in the fifth.
With the victory, the Sox enter May with an 8-12 record.
April marked their first losing month since September 2019. That snaps a streak of eight consecutive winning months, the franchise’s longest stretch since June 1993 to August 1994.
The last couple of weeks, which included an eight-game losing streak from April 17-26, have been particularly tough.
“It’s been a rough stretch,” starter Lucas Giolito said after Friday’s 5-1 loss to the Angels. “But there’s not really much that needs to be said. It’s just a matter of going out and executing in every facet of the game.
“On my end, I feel like I could’ve executed better (Friday). I’m sure other guys feel like they could’ve executed better in other areas. But that’s the way it goes. If we just continue to go out prepared and let our talent shine out on the field, have focus in every situation, things will start to go our way.”
Here are four areas that hampered the Sox in April.
1. The hits did not fall.
The Sox entered Saturday ranked fifth in the majors with a 90.0 mph average exit velocity, but that didn’t translate into hits and runs.
In the last 16 games leading up to Saturday, the Sox were slashing .190/.245/.304 with 14 homers and 41 runs (2.6 runs per game). They scored three runs or less 13 times in April.
“We’re putting good at-bats together, but we’ve just got to string some together now,” said left fielder Andrew Vaughn, who was hitting .283 and leads the Sox with four homers and 12 RBIs before Saturday’s game.
The Sox entered Saturday tied for 12th in the American League in runs (60), and ranked 14th in hits (127) and last in batting average (.207) in the league.
They were in the top five in the AL in each of those categories last season (fifth in runs, fourth in hits and average). Manager Tony La Russa is confident that potential will come through.
“That’s what we talked about all spring, we’ve got a deep lineup, got to stay positive and keep working,” La Russa said before Saturday’s game.
Saturday was a good sign for the team with their fourth multi-homer game of the season.
2. The Sox did not draw their walks.
The Sox were second in the AL with 586 walks in 2021.
That same type of patience wasn’t on display in April. The Sox entered Saturday last in the AL with 39 walks.
For an offense seeking consistency, sometimes a walk can spark a rally. But Friday marked the eighth consecutive game the Sox walked three times or less.
“We can be more aggressive in the zone and not chase,” La Russa said after Thursday’s 5-2 loss in 10 innings to the Kansas City Royals.
3. Injuries were a major issue.
The Sox were hit hard by injuries in 2021, and that has been the case again early this season.
The list of players on the injured list include starter Lance Lynn (right knee surgery), relievers Joe Kelly (biceps nerve injury) and Garrett Crochet (season-ending Tommy John surgery), third baseman Yoán Moncada (right oblique strain) and outfielder Eloy Jiménez (right hamstring tendon tear).
Moncada began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte on Saturday, going 1-for-3 with a single. Kelly is slated to pitch Sunday for Charlotte.
Vaughn got hit by a pitch in the ninth inning Friday, but the Sox breathed a sigh of relief Saturday because X-rays were negative. He’s day to day.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys take 95 (mph) to the hand, and it doesn’t end really well,” Vaughn said. “I guess I got pretty lucky.”
4. The defense was sluggish.
Through Friday, the Sox and Baltimore Orioles led the majors with 21 errors.
“The defense has been, I think, one of the larger surprises in terms of its performance thus far,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday. “Over the course of the summer I think guys are going to perform at their more accustomed levels than what we’ve seen over the past week or two weeks.”
The Sox had one error Friday, making it 10 of their last 12 games with at least one miscue.
La Russa said generally there’s a balance involved when trying not to take offensive scuffles to the field.
“If you don’t care, then it doesn’t bother you, but if you care that you want to hit and produce, it’s hard not to get distracted by it,” he said. “You’ve really got to fight it. … You’ve just got to understand you win the game on both sides, and the better defense (you have), the fewer runs you’ve got to score.
“It’s the best players in the world, but they have their issues. It’s not automatic. They’re not robots.”
The good news for the Sox is that it’s a long season and they aren’t the only team in the AL Central off to a slow start. The Minnesota Twins are the only team in the division with a winning record.
“It’s on us to execute the plan and to do our job,” first baseman José Abreu said Friday through an interpreter. “We haven’t been able to do that. Hopefully sooner rather than later we’ll be able to do that.”