A series sweep was there for the taking. Not once but four times — in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings.
But the White Sox, with a chance to win their fourth straight game, take three from the AL Central leading Twins and go on a road trip against the Reds and Royals fueled with desperately needed juice, failed repeatedly to finish off the Twins in a 7-3 loss to the Thursday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.
After leaving nine runners on base without scoring in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings, the Sox, a mostly effective bullpen used up, watched the Twins score five in the 12th against Alexander Colome and lefty Sammy Peralta.
The Sox fell to 10-22. The Twins are 18-14.
An 11-21 record never would have felt so good had the Sox found a way to push across a run late. As bad as it’s been, knowing they’re competing in a weak division, seeing their starting pitching show signs of rounding into form and putting together a streak could have slowed the death march they seemed to be on.
The Sox tried not to make too much of this defeat.
“This series was definitely a step in the right direction,” said right-hander Lucas Giolito, who lowered his ERA to 3.67 with his fifth straight good start, allowing one run. “I would have liked to have had this game. We were right there. It always stings a little bit when you lose one like this.”
The Sox did win a series for the first time, after all.
“I like to see us winning a series,” Giolito said. “I want to see a lot more of that. Maybe mix in some sweeps and then we’re right back in it. I like the trajectory we’re on. I like where the clubhouse is at. We’re having fun. It’s just a matter of continuing to put those things together.”
“We finally wake up and are winning games,” third baseman Hanser Alberto said. “Credit to the pitchers, starting, bullpen.
“Today was a tough one. We have so many chances to win the game and we didn’t do it.”
Alberto got hit by a pitch with the bases full that would have ended it in the 10th but in trying to avoid it, swung and struck out.
“Bro, I don’t mean to swing,” Alberto said. “I meant to get away but I didn’t know how to get away. The ball got right on me.”
The Sox had one hit in the last six innings. They were 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s not frustrating for me,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “The right guys were at the plate. It was just one of those days. They had a good approach, they took good swings. It just didn’t happen. Hitting’s tough.”
It wasn’t for Eloy Jimenez, who stayed hot with a two-run homer against Twins starter Pablo Lopez. The Twins got home runs from Correa against Giolito in the sixth and Byron Buxton against Reynaldo Lopez in the eighth.
Correa, the former Astro, struck out against Keynan Middleton to end the Sox’ 6-4 win Wednesday, then was called a cheater by Middleton.
“I’ve heard worse,” Correa said before Thursday’s game. “I’m just glad he’s doing good and he’s playing good and he can take care of his family.”
The Sox’ biggest fail came in the eighth against Twins hard-throwing righty Jhoan Duran when pinch runner Billy Hamilton stole second and got to third on a pitch in the dirt. But with the infield in, Jimenez grounded sharply to shortstop and pinch hitter Tim Anderson tapped out softly to third before Alberto grounded out, stranding Hamilton.
Anderson’s error at shortstop on Jose Miranda’s shortstop allowed the go-ahead run to score in the 12th, and the floodgates opened. It was Peralta’s first major league game.
All Grifol could do was call it “a good series.”
With a bad ending.
“It was just one of those days,” he said. “Just get back after it tomorrow.”