A 23-10 start and a six-game lead took all the heat off Robin Ventura, and Rick Hahn was happy to give him credit when talking to reporters before Tuesday's game.
As luck would have it, one of his compliments will be put to the test:
"It's all part of having a change in environment here," Hahn said. "Everything has been a breath of fresh air, in that there's more positivity all around in that clubhouse. Even (when) we've dropped a game, the next day you see that positive attitude and focus on that night's game."
The White Sox are licking their wounds after blowing a five-run lead to the Texas Rangers in the eighth inning on Tuesday. It doesn't get any easier today, as the Rangers have won 15 of the last 16 games started by Cole Hamels dating back to last year.
The big picture helps, in this case. For starters, the Sox have their own streak in Mat Latos starts, so beating Hamels isn't unthinkable. Should the matchup on paper play out in practice, well, the Sox are done with the Rangers, and will have won the season series against a 2015 playoff team without requiring Chris Sale's services.
Moreover, the Sox were due for a painful loss. They had been undefeated in games they led after the sixth inning:
- After 6: 16-0
- After 7: 17-0
- After 8: 20-0
- After 9: 19-0
- Extra innings: 2-0
Now the first three of those rows end in "1." But it could/should be worse -- and they're still undefeated when tied after the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings, although that's not nearly as satisfying to say.
The Sox won both games in which David Robertson botched a save opportunity, and sidestepped a few other setbacks to deliver heartbreak the other way. We're familiar with the Sox' late-inning offensive success, but even accounting for its regularity, these games stand out for the way they never ultimately paid for their own mistakes.
Just the day before, the Sox blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning, then a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Dan Jennings escaped an awful situation in the 10th, and the Sox lasted long enough for Todd Frazier to break it open with a grand slam.
This game had "extra innings" written all over it after Jose Abreu's error led to the end of Matt Albers' scoreless streak. Then Adam Eaton executed a drag bunt that both resulted a single and a strained hamstring for Orioles closer Zach Britton, and the Sox took advantage of facing his replacement, Vance Worley. They also took advantage of a missed strike three on Eaton's stolen base attempt, which turned into a walk instead.
The White Sox reversed an unfavorable matchup by ambushing Marcus Stroman for five seventh-inning runs. When it looked like the Blue Jays might threaten Robertson, Troy Tulowitzki ran into a bouncer for a game-ending interference call.
Robertson's first blown save of the season pushed the game into extra innings, but the Sox scored the key fourth run thanks to Nick Martinez, who couldn't find the strike zone. He loaded the bases with two walks and an HBP, and Jose Abreu eventually gets the run home with a single through the left side (although if the Rangers played back, it might've been an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play).
Nate Jones blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning after loading the bases with an HBP and giving up a two-run single, but he ended up getting the win when Jimmy Rollins took Sean Doolittle deep on a 2-2 count with two outs in the ninth.
As the above list of innings-based records shows, the White Sox hadn't experienced a similar kind of kick to the junk all season. They lost pitchers' duels, they lost duds, they dug holes too deep with mistakes early in games, but they were overdue for letting a win slip from their grasps. That it did, and the hope is that the Rangers used up the White Sox' misfortune for one month in one inning.