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Homer-dependent White Sox fail to hit long ball, drop series finale

The White Sox's Jeff Keppinger reacts striking out during fifth inning U.S. Cellular Field Chicago Ill. Thursday April 4 2013.

The White Sox's Jeff Keppinger reacts to striking out during the fifth inning at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, April 4, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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ON DECK

MARINERS AT SOX

Fridfay: 7:10 p.m., Ch. 27, 670-AM, 97.5-FM

The starters: (2012 records): Blake Beavan (11-11, 4.43) vs. Jose Quintana (6-6, 3.76)

REST OF THE SERIES

Saturday: 12:10 p.m., CSN+, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. Felix Hernandez (1-0, 0.00) vs. Dylan Axelrod (2-2, 5.47 in 2012).

Sunday: 1:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. Hisashi Iwakuma (1-0, 1.50) vs. Chris Sale (1-0, 0.00).

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Updated: April 5, 2013 10:39PM



Someway, somehow, the White Sox are going to have to score a little more without the long ball.

Take nothing away from the home run, an area of expertise for the Sox, who ranked third in the American League last season with 211 and hit five in their first two games this week.

The long ball produces runs in bunches, and it helped the Sox finish fourth in the AL in runs last season, but unless their historically low on-base-percentage hitters at the bottom of the order (Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez, Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham) get on base at a higher clip, the Sox might have to settle for being what they were last season, an 85-win team that finished in second place in the AL Central.

In their 3-1 loss Thursday to the Royals, the Sox didn’t hit one out of the park at U.S. Cellular Field for the first time in the series and lost for the first time in three games. They were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Live by the homer, die by the (no) homer.

“To win a lot of games and to win the tough games, you’re going to have to knock runs in besides the home runs,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “Home runs are nice, but you’re going to have to string together some hits and get some runs other ways.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to do it.’’

The Sox scored all of their runs via the homer in their first two games, which Ventura wasn’t opposed to, of course.

He hit-and-ran with Beckham on Thursday and bunted with leadoff man Alejandro De Aza on Wednesday with two runners on and a three-run lead, his way of trying to score with singles, sacrifices and good baserunning. The sacrifice didn’t pan out when Flowers made a poor decision trying to score from third on a pitch that got away from Royals catcher Salvador Perez.

Told that the metrics community is armed with statistical data that show “giving away outs” with a sacrifice is more often than not bad strategy, Ventura fueled the debate between sabermetricians and old-school thinkers by saying, “There’s a lot of those guys out there, but they’re not sitting in this seat, and they’re not sitting in this dugout. So it’s a different feel when you’re a player or a manager than it is just to sit there and write numbers down on a piece of paper.”

Against Jeremy Guthrie, who has allowed two runs in 352/3 innings in his last five starts against the Sox, Ventura tried to get something going in the third inning of a scoreless game, starting the slow-footed Flowers from first with Beckham up.

Beckham punched a hit through the right side to set up a first-and-third situation for De Aza, but De Aza, who hit into one double play last season, hit into one to end the inning.

Beckham understood Ventura’s thought process in both cases but said not to expect a rebirth of the 1959 Go-Go Sox. South Side Hitmen, it is.

“I don’t think we’ll have to manufacture too much because we have a lot of guys who hit the ball out of the park,’’ said Beckham, who had four singles. “I’ve worked on hit-and-runs, so he felt confident, and there are times when that will happen, but most times they’re going to let us play.’’

With Gavin Floyd pitching six solid innings (three runs, two earned) and Hector Santiago following with three scoreless, the Sox came away knowing a sweep against a tough division foe was in reach. A base hit here or a home run there would’ve done the job.



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