White Sox at critical juncture to keep hope alive

Have dropped three of four after 7-game winning streak

White Sox at critical juncture to keep hope alive

CHICAGO -- The White Sox returned home to U.S. Cellular Field with a clubhouse full of momentum coming off a 7-1 road trip, not to mention a weekend series against the Yankees that would draw over 30,000 each day at U.S. Cellular Field.

Facing the American League East leaders was a good test for the South Siders, who played good baseball during their seven-game winning streak but also did so against two last-place teams in Cleveland and Boston. So losing two out of three to the Yankees, including Sunday's 12-3 setback in front of their third sellout of the season, wouldn't exactly be considered a failure.

But three losses in four games and having just 59 games remaining underscores the importance of not letting this losing skid grow much deeper.

"We know our backs are up against the wall and we need to win as many as possible as soon as possible," said White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who allowed nine runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings, after allowing nine runs in his previous 23 innings. "The same thing applies for me that applies to everybody. Show up and turn the page and go get them tomorrow. We have a new series and another chance to win a series."

"We've been playing some good baseball the last two weeks," said White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton, who extended his hitting to a season-high 11 games and has scored a run in a career-high 10 straight. "But we gotta keep pushing."

When the White Sox offense returned in full force on the road, it was pointed to as a sign that this latest hot streak was different from others earlier in the season that were followed by prolonged losing runs. But if Sunday's setback, Friday's 13-6 loss and Thursday's 8-2 affair at Fenway prove anything, it's that this team is driven by its quality starting staff.

Combine Samardzija's performance Sunday, Carlos Rodon on Friday and a rare off night for Chris Sale on Thursday, and the totals stand at 12 2/3 innings pitched, 28 hits, 24 earned runs, 14 strikeouts and seven walks.

"There's going to be periods where that happens," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of the starters' struggles, minus John Danks in Saturday's victory. "And this is a lineup that can do it to you. If you are not sharp on top of it, you are going to pay for it. And we did."

"These things happen," Samardzija said. "The thing is you need to stop it once you do. You don't let it snowball."

Jose Quintana and Sale are next up in trying to stop this season from rolling downhill, and they will be doing it against a Rays team also in the Wild Card hunt. The White Sox can't waste opportunities at home, where they are 1-6 in their last seven, especially in a month of August where they only play 10 games on the road.

"I feel that our guys have been playing great baseball," White Sox catcher Geovany Soto said. "We lost two out of three, but we're going to keep battling, keep trying to win series and see where we are in September."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.