Updated: April 3, 2014 10:46PM
White Sox manager Robin Ventura is standing by his guys. Three games into the season is too early to draw conclusions about a bullpen that issued walks and allowed runs in worrisome bunches.
The team got away with it once in its first series but not twice, and a pen implosion cost the Sox a chance to claim a season-opening sweep of the Minnesota Twins. So what if the Twins are thought to be the weakest team in the American League Central; when you’re coming off a bad season like 2013, a sweep could’ve been the talk of the town.
The Sox were leading by a run after Marcus Semien’s dramatic home run in the eighth inning — two innings after Jose Abreu’s tiebreaking bases-loaded triple — but the Twins ruined it all by getting to closer Matt Lindstrom for two runs in the ninth for a 10-9 victory Thursday. A walk — the 13th by Sox pitchers in the last two days — got the inning going. A two-out RBI single by Trevor Plouffe tied it, and an RBI triple by Oswaldo Arcia put the Twins in front, making Lindstrom 1-for-2 in save opportunities in his first try at handling the team’s ninth-inning duty.
What may be worse is that Nate Jones had his second bad outing in as many days by walking both batters he faced and revealed after the game that the glute strain that sidelined him early in spring training has flared up again. A trip to the disabled list is possible and would be a tough blow for a pen whose ERA is 8.03.
“I think it’s a pretty small sample,’’ Ventura said of his bullpen. “If you look around the league, there’s been a lot of stuff happening with bullpens, so I’m not going to sit here and overreact to it. Would you like it to be better? Yeah, sure.’’
Ventura gave deserved credit to the Twins for their fight to avoid the sweep. But he must’ve been thinking about how nice a flight to Kansas City would’ve been with a 3-0 record in tow. The Sox hadn’t started 3-0 since 1992.
“The biggest thing that I’m feeling right now,’’ Lindstrom said, “is the guys battled so hard in the cold weather. We put some runs on the board, we came back when we were down, guys putting together great at-bats, playing good defense, so it feels bad kind of letting the team down in that sense.’’
In hindsight, Lindstrom said pitching around the left-handed-hitting Arcia and taking his chances with Josmil Pinto might’ve been a better option. But second-guessing was of little use, except possibly a learning experience he’ll “take into the next game.’’
“But we’ll battle back,’’ Lindstrom said. “I feel like we’re a resilient team, and we played our guts out today. That’s the feeling as a closer when you don’t get the job done. That’s what really kind of hurts, but we’re looking forward to getting on this road trip and seeing if we can be a good road team.’’
Ronald Belisario gave up a tying homer to Pinto in the eighth, and Maikel Cleto tried but failed to clean up Jones’ mess in the seventh, so Lindstrom wasn’t alone.
At least Jose Quintana (two earned runs over six innings) had a strong start despite three walks.
On the plus side, the Sox have scored five, seven and nine runs in their first three games, an encouraging start after they had the worst offense in the AL last season.
“Your goal is to win the series, and we did that,’’ said Adam Dunn, who hit his second homer in two days. “This is what this team is all about — what I thought we would be last year. We’re having better at-bats, and that’s how you come back when you’re behind. But this game is result-oriented. The first series, it’s just good to get it out of the way after all the buildup and start the grind.’’