Ritchie OK, but support far from it

Neifi PerezCarlos BeltranJeff SuppanChicago White SoxBrent MayneRay DurhamMike Sweeney

Statistically speaking, Todd Ritchie starts strong almost every year, as a career earned-run average of 3.74 in April suggests.

But after the White Sox dropped a 9-2 decision to Kansas City on Sunday, Ritchie's career record in the opening month fell to 3-8, including 0-4 over the last two seasons.

Ritchie (0-1) pitched well again in his second start with the Sox, allowing three runs on only four hits in 5 2/3 innings. But the Sox offense that scored 14 runs Saturday fell strangely silent Sunday and the bullpen collapsed during the Royals' six-run seventh to turn the game into a rout.

The Sox head into Detroit with a 2-4 record, taking on the 0-6 Tigers in a three-game series starting Monday night. "Ritchie has pitched well both times out and given us a chance to win," Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. "Things just aren't clicking right now. At some point they will."

Frank Thomas' broken-bat home run off Jeff Suppan (1-0) put the Sox on top in the first, but the Royals tied it in the second on a leadoff walk, a bad-hop single over Ray Durham's head and a sacrifice fly by Brent Mayne.

Ritchie didn't allow another hit until the sixth, when Neifi Perez led off with a triple to deep center field. After Ritchie hit Carlos Beltran with a pitch, Mike Sweeney brought home the lead run with an RBI groundout, and Michael Tucker singled to make it 3-1.

Thomas has started on a slow note but said he isn't beating himself up over it.

"I'm going to refuse to do that to myself anymore," Thomas said, "because we do have a team that's capable of having other guys pitch in and carrying the ballclub. I don't have to do it every day. I definitely don't want to sit there and scuffle. It's not a good feeling. Hopefully I can get it out of the way early and go from there."

Playing first base for the second straight day, Thomas made two throwing errors, including an ill-advised toss to first on a bunt play in the seventh that led to a six-run inning off Antonio Osuna and Gary Glover.

Manuel said Thomas should have let the ball roll foul but added: "He can play first base. He'll be fine."

The old Thomas might have gone into a funk after his brutal fielding. The new Thomas insists he's a changed man.

"You can never be a different person," said Thomas, who added a sacrifice fly in the eighth. "I just think my attitude to the game has changed. I was stressing too much, trying to be the perfect player, trying to not have shortcomings on the field. I wasted too much precious time doing that.

"I think now I know what my strength is—getting on base and swinging the bat and helping the team win offensively. That's my goal, to think more offensive. When I'm out there on defense, I'll just go out and have fun, make the plays to the best of your ability. If I'm a changed person that way, OK, maybe I am. The game has been very good to me. I just need to have more fun with it."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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