White Sox offense struggling shorthanded

CHICAGO — The following statements are not apologies for the underperforming White Sox, but statements of fact following their 5-1 loss to the Cubs in front of a sold-out crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday night.

Center fielder Luis Robert, one of the team’s best players, was once again ruled out of the White Sox roster on the COVID injured list. General manager Rick Hahn believes Robert will return for next weekend’s series at the latest at the Rays.

Third baseman Yoán Moncada was sidelined with a left quad problem, while left fielder Eloy Jiménez left his first injury rehab game with Triple-A Charlotte after two at bats on Saturday due to of right leg pain and is now day to day.

Are the White Sox a bit understaffed? Certainly, but again, the same goes for many Major League teams. And the White Sox are too good to be this inconsistent offensively, as they fell to 22-23 overall and trailed the Twins five games in American League Central.

Their record is only three games better at this point than the Cubs (19-26), who are in some form of reconstruction. The results may not be there regularly, but the South Siders’ confidence hasn’t wavered.

“We never doubt ourselves and the talent we have at this club,” said White Sox third baseman Jake Burger, who had three hits including a home run in of National Hamburger Day. “Eventually, that will change. I think we do it day by day and field by field. I think we’re going in the right direction.”

“They’re a good group with a lot of talent,” said Johnny Cueto, who allowed five runs in 6 2/3 innings in the loss, through interpreter Billy Russo. “It’s a happy clubhouse and everyone likes to have fun. There’s a lot of season to play. We’ll see.”

Cueto hasn’t allowed a run on his first two starts since joining the White Sox and brought a 19-7 record with a 2.69 ERA during his interleague career in Game 3 for the Whites. Sox and the first loss against the Cubs this season. But the three runs scored by an aggressive young Cubs team in the first two innings were enough behind Keegan Thompson and four relievers.

The odds existed for the White Sox, who knocked out seven hits but went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and seven grounded. They had runners on first and second in the seventh, only for Tim Anderson to go on a late-inning double play.

In the second inning, Yasmani Grandal was ejected at the plate by Rafael Ortega on Burger’s two-out single to the right. He was the ninth White Sox runner to be sent off at home this season, tying them for the league lead. Pushing the limits, however, is sometimes a way to pull a team out of the attacking slump.

“I patted Joe [McEwing, third-base coach] on the back,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s one of the things you do when you fight, man. You have to push. The ball on the ground that way, the guy rushed well, made a strong throw, so I thought you had to send it. They had to make a pitch to stop him.

Saturday’s loss dropped the White Sox to 1-3 on this court, having been outscored by a 38-14 margin. They are 6-12 in their last 18 games at the guaranteed rate field, after starting 4-1.

Hahn spoke before that loss, primarily about veteran pitcher Dallas Keuchel designated for assignment. But Hahn was also asked about the offense, and he believes what was shown on the plaque is not an accurate representation of this team.

“We’ve seen this group for a while now, and we know the kind of at-bats they’re capable of putting on,” Hahn said. “We saw games last week where we had a more patient approach and spat at balls out of the area and took our walks, and as a result damage followed.

“It’s more who we are. It’s understandable when for a variety of reasons – spring, a weird start – guys start pressing a little bit when they look up there and see the numbers a little below what they’re used to see. Overall, the guys who step back and string together the good shots they’re able to make will correct any offensive shortcomings we’ve had, and the numbers will follow.

“Sometimes you have to tip your cap towards the pitcher sometimes. But we know this offense is capable of more, and we’ve seen that over the past few seasons.

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