Chris Sale-Jeff Samardzija duo lacking that 1-2 punch

CHICAGO -- Bicycles need two wheels, airplanes need two wings and ice cream cones need two scoops, preferably of different yet complementary flavors.

That was supposed to be Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija this season: a perfect complementary pair with contrasting approaches -- one from the left side (Sale) and the other from the right (Samardzija).

The treat has been melting in the summer sun, of course, with Sale unable to carry both of them, no matter how hard he has tried.

It's not to say Samardzija has not had his moments, but they have been hard to come by since the calendar flipped to August. Monday was another disappointing result as he failed to contain the Red Sox's Rusney Castillo, who delivered five RBIs in just six innings. The Chicago White Sox fell 5-4 after rallying for two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Evidence of what a frustrating time it has been for Samardzija came with Castillo's three-run home run in the second inning, which appeared to be wind aided. Last week against the Los Angeles Angels, the frustration came in the form of a defeat when he allowed just one run.

"Castillo put some good at-bats out there with runners on," Samardzija said. "Again it goes back to putting runners on base. Solo shots, your team is a little closer in it, one run puts you right there in a tie ballgame. He got me today."

By contrast, Sale has been rolling of late. His 14-strikeout outing at Seattle on Friday was just his second best outing of the week after striking out 15 Chicago Cubs batters five days earlier, while only giving up one hit in seven innings.

As Sale inspires talk about his Cy Young Award chances, the talk surrounding Samardzija is about his pending free-agent status and how much his roller coaster season will affect a major payday this winter.

When talking about the team's issues this season, and the disappointing 58-65 record the White Sox have built, Samardzija could have just as well been talking about his own season that has fallen below expectations.

"It's tough," he said. "We turned it around there for a couple of months, put that tough start behind us and [started to get to] where we needed to be. That's the way the sport goes; it's not a forgiving game and it really tests your will and how mentally strong you are. You need to do your work every time out and turn the page. You learn in this game to have thick skin and trust your work ethic and trust your routine."

Trust in a routine is hard to come by during a month like Samardzija is having. He has thrown 28 innings this month and given up 28 earned runs. He has also allowed seven home runs in August.

And while nobody was expecting Samardzija to post identical numbers as Sale, while forming a 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, nobody was predicting his August inconsistencies either, not after he began the month on a streak of 10 consecutive starts of seven innings or more.

Outside of his hard-luck outing against the Angels last week, Samardzija has been far from dominating this month, although manager Robin Ventura defended him Monday.

"I thought he had a good game except the one guy [Castillo] who got him twice," Ventura said. "For us to win, we came in there late and got some runs but we didn't do anything offensively to really help him."

It ended up being yet another close defeat for the White Sox, who have now been involved in 47 one-run games, going 22-25 in those contests. They have been in 68 games decided by two runs or less.

In games that are so close, the little things make a difference. It meant that Samardzija's inability to handle just one Red Sox player loomed large. It also shined a light on a six-pitch sequence in the second inning when Samardzija went from a 1-0 White Sox lead to a 3-1 deficit when he hit Hanley Ramirez with a pitch, gave up a single to Brock Holt and allowed Castillo's home run to center.

"It's been frustrating, and I can just speak for myself, the last few times when I give up runs we score runs, and when I don't we don't," Samardzija said.

There are plenty of examples on how the White Sox have failed to get in sync all season, and that is just one of them.

"That kind of sums it up the way it's been here a while," Samardzija said. "We play every day and we play to win those close games. Personally, I have to pitch better to keep the game where it needs to be."