NEW YORK -- The White Sox left Chicago last Sunday evening with a five-game lead atop the American League Central. One 2-4 road trip later and the White Sox still maintain that five-game advantage.
That's the good news emanating from a 7-5 loss to the Yankees on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, giving New York the series victory. The problematic side stems from the White Sox struggling in season-long areas of strength and not being able to take advantage of numerous opportunities in a winnable road trip finale.
Take for example the bullpen, which entered Sunday ranked third in the Majors with a 2.60 ERA and fourth in opponents' average (.209). But left-handed reliever Zach Duke couldn't hold a 4-3 lead in the sixth, when he allowed Carlos Beltran's 400th career homer, a two-run shot that pushed the Yankees in front.
Duke replaced fellow southpaw Dan Jennings, with Beltran featuring a 5-for-27 career ledger against Duke. After the White Sox tied the game against Dellin Betances in the top of the seventh, Matt Albers yielded the game-winning run in the bottom half on pinch-hitter Chase Headley's double.
"You are not going to make the perfect pitches all the time," White Sox catcher Alex Avila said.
"There are going to be blips in there at some point, and confidence is still there to be able to get those guys in there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You give them a good lead, it will happen."
A similar level of confidence exists in the White Sox defense, which had not committed an error during May until Brett Lawrie's throwing miscue on Jacoby Ellsbury's grounder with one out in the sixth. Lawrie also bounced a throw that first baseman Jose Abreu couldn't scoop in the first inning, ruled an Ellsbury hit after Lawrie made a nice play to get to it, which eventually resulted in the first run of the game.
"We went 12 straight games without an error," White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier said. "We worry about the mental mistakes, not the physical ones, because we know eventually it's going to happen."
Add in a number of wasted White Sox scoring chances -- including a second-and-third, nobody-out situation in the seventh after tying the game against Betances -- and Sunday had the look of a team loss. Players such as Adam Eaton, as well as Ventura, took slight umbrage at that assessment, looking at Sunday as a tough game against a solid team that didn't go their way.
"Today was a good back-and-forth game, but it was a frustrating one at times too," Avila said. "We weren't able to make that one pitch, two or three mistakes today on the pitching side, and we weren't able to get that hit to make it a two- or three-run lead."
"What were we, 2-4 on the road trip with a couple tough losses and a couple tough wins?" Frazier said. "Bottom line is we get another off-day [Monday] to regroup and get back to it in two days."