Yo-yoing Indians stand in way of Sox’ cellar escape
BY DAN MCGRATH For Sun-Times Media June 27, 2013 9:26PM
Updated: June 27, 2013 11:34PM
The White Sox played the Cleveland Indians five times in the season’s first three weeks, going 2-3, with a game on April 23 rained out and scheduled to be made up as part of a doubleheader Friday. They haven’t seen the Indians since April 24.
The Tribe has been an up-and down team in manager Terry Francona’s first season. It was 5-10 on April 19, then won 21 of its next 28 to take over first place in the American League Central. Next came a 3-14 tailspin, leaving it at 30-33 on June 10, but the Tribe had won four straight series and 10 of its last 14 games to stand second in the division, two games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers and seven ahead of the fifth-place Sox going into Thursday’s game at Baltimore.
The Sox have stumbled to an 8-19 mark in 27 games since reaching .500 on May 26. With so many teams ahead of them, manager Robin Ventura knows the Sox have to start gaining ground lest the season get far enough away from them to trigger a roster purge and a rebuilding movement.
‘‘I’d like to start turning it around right now,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘We can’t wait any longer. Every day is important.’’
Jason Kipnis, the Indians’ 26-year-old second baseman from Glenbrook North High School by way of Arizona State, is making a strong push for the AL All-Star team in his third big-league season. He was hitting .288 with 11 homers, 45 RBI, a .370 on-base percentage and a .512 slugging percentage for an .882 OPS, outstanding for a middle infielder.
Kipnis is also on pace for 163 strikeouts, but that’s hardly frowned upon on a team of free swingers. Mark Reynolds (221), Drew Stubbs (170) and Nick Swisher (162) are all likely to equal or surpass Kipnis’ strikeout total.
Sloppy fielding has borne the brunt of the blame for the Sox’ struggles, but Ventura is equally perplexed by his team’s frequently feeble hitting. The Sox are batting .242 as a team and scoring just 3.7 runs per game. They managed to look overmatched against journeyman Shaun Marcum on Wednesday, collecting four hits against a pitcher who was 0-9 with a 5.76 ERA coming in.
‘‘It just seems like a listless offense,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘I don’t know the reason for it, but you can’t have it. There’s nothing there. It’s just flat. It’s unacceptable stuff.’’
Is a lineup shakeup in order?
‘‘We only have so many guys,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘It’s going to have to happen with the guys we have.’’