CHICAGO -- On May 9, after a 12-inning victory on the road against the Rangers featuring a Todd Frazier extra-inning grand slam, the White Sox stood as the American League's best team, with a 23-10 record and a six-game-lead over the Indians in the Central.
Since that point, Robin Ventura's crew has gone 8-22, punctuated by a 3-1 loss to the Royals on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. Chicago has a 2-10-1 series mark over its last 13, with one of those wins being a sweep of the Twins. The White Sox are 1-11 in their last 12 played within the division and are 4 1/2 games out of first.
Even diehard fans have declared the 2016 season in major trouble, at the very least and kindest moments on social media. But players won't give into such doubt, not with 99 games remaining in the regular season.
"There's no magic formula for it," said catcher Alex Avila, who has multi-hit efforts in his last two starts. "There's nothing you can say, there's nothing you can do other than make sure you are prepared to come each game.
"The past few days we've been getting some really good pitching, some quality starts. Basically, we've been playing good defense and the one key that has been kind of missing is key hits in situations, and instead of getting one run, being able to push two, three or four runs across."
Avila's words were backed up on the field Sunday. He threw out Paulo Orlando and Christian Colon trying to steal in the second, keeping a one-run rally from growing much bigger against Carlos Rodon. In the ninth, J.B. Shuck threw out Cheslor Cuthbert at the plate to once again hold the Royals to one run.
But the White Sox did nothing with the one chance provided during Yordano Ventura's electric start, coming in the fifth. With runners on first and third and none out, Shuck struck out looking and Tim Anderson hit into a double play.
This miserable stretch has featured equal parts rough pitching and rough hitting. Per MLB Network's pregame notes, the White Sox hurlers had a 4.91 ERA over the 29 games entering Sunday. The offense featured a .234 average in that same span.
Outside calls for a change at manager persist, or for general manager Rick Hahn to make another personnel move, both designed at shaking up the team if nothing else. This White Sox squad still believes it can find the 23-10 form in its present incarnation, looking at this 30-game run as a dreadful slump as opposed to a season-altering or season-defining stretch.
"We know we're good enough," Rodon said. "We're just going through a rough patch and we just need to come out of it and start winning."
"It's not the way we've been wanting to play the last few days, but we're right in the middle of the thick of things," Avila said. "That's why you can't let losses affect your psyche coming into each game, because as much as we're down right now, things could change in a week pretty quickly."