Blake Tekotte was picked off second base by catcher Carlos Santana with two on and none out. Moments later, Matt Thornton threw the ball into center field for a pivotal error.
It was an all-too-familiar scene for White Sox manager Robin Ventura just 19 games into the season.
“You just keep shooting yourself in the foot,” Ventura said after Chicago lost 3-2 to the Cleveland Indians on Monday night. “You give major league teams opportunities and they’re going to take advantage of them. And until we clean it up, we’re going to lose games. It’s just that simple. It’s not hard to figure out.”
Asdrubal Cabrera delivered a clutch two-run single in his return to the lineup and Justin Masterson pitched seven effective innings, helping Cleveland to its third consecutive win since a five-game losing streak. The Indians also improved to 3-1 against the White Sox this season.
“It was nice to win a ballgame. We’ve got some big home runs, but to group together some singles, that was huge,” manager Terry Francona said.
Cleveland had runners on first and second with one out in the eighth when Thornton (0-1) threw wildly to second while trying to pick off Drew Stubbs. Both runners moved up as the ball went into center field.
“It was a set play, spun and threw it between Stubbs’ legs. No chance for us to get that ball,” Thornton said. “So, I gave the game away.”
Jason Kipnis struck out for the second out, but Cabrera hit a liner to center to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead. He clapped his hands as he rounded first following the big hit.
“I love those situations,” Cabrera said.
Dylan Axelrod pitched six sparkling innings for Chicago, and Conor Gillaspie had a solo homer. Hector Gimenez hit a tiebreaking double in the fourth, but left in the seventh after he was hit on his lower left shin by a pitch from Masterson.
“I think it’s going to be OK,” Gimenez said. “Let’s see how I feel tomorrow. I’ll be here early and just be ready.”
The slumping White Sox have lost four straight and 10 of 13. They managed just five hits and the baserunning blunder by Tekotte, who came in to run for Gimenez, was followed by an inning-ending double play from Alejandro De Aza.
“We always have confidence in our guys here,” Thornton said. “Everyone’s doing what they can every single day. We have a good team and believe in ourselves. We keep pulling for each other and pushing each other and stuff, so we’ll be fine.”
Cabrera went 1 for 4 in his first game since he bruised his left wrist when he fell down the steps on the way to the dugout in Houston on Saturday. He rested during a 5-4 victory on Sunday, but that didn’t stop his teammates from making a tape outline of a body with Cabrera’s No. 13 on it on the stairs where he fell.
Cabrera took it in stride, laughing and taking pictures of their handiwork. He is off to a slow start and remains in search of his first multihit game, but no one seems all that concerned.
“Maybe this is the start hopefully of him getting hot,” said Francona, who celebrated his 54th birthday, “because he’s going to get really hot at some point.”
Masterson (4-1) walked four, but managed to hold the White Sox to two runs and four hits. The right-hander also tossed a five-hitter in a 1-0 victory over Chicago on April 12.
“The boys played great defense,” he said. “Again, Santana was exceptional, especially making that play at second base.”
Vinnie Pestano worked a perfect eighth and Chris Perez pitched around a one-out single while earning his third save in four opportunities.
Gillaspie led off the second with a drive to right for his first homer since he was acquired in a February trade with San Francisco. Then he played a role in Chicago’s second run when he walked with one out in the fourth.
Gillaspie was erased when Alexei Ramirez bounced into a fielder’s choice, but Gimenez followed with a double to deep left-center to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead. Masterson struck out Jordan Danks for the second time to limit the damage.
Axelrod allowed one run and three hits, struck out four and walked two.
“I can’t ask myself to do anything else but keep us in it and be ahead coming out of the game,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that we’re in a little bit of a rut. We just need to find a way to get it done.”