After a snowout on Friday, the White Sox opened four games over three days in Boston with an effort that has been typical of the season’s first fortnight, although you could point fingers in even more directions than normal. The White Sox offense scored four runs, but not in a particularly inspiring manner. The White Sox bullpen was left a lot of innings to cover, and couldn’t quite get the job done. Tony La Russa took a gamble on a lesser player and lost.
The White Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, but a combination of doinks, mistakes and missed opportunities knocked them two games below .500. The misfortune covered pretty much all the sources.
If you wanted to blame the starting pitching, you could. Coming off a non-COVID illness and pitching in the cold, Cease’s fastball came out underpowered and erratic, and he had a part in a pitch count that rose early with three walks through three. It looked like he might’ve been able to complete five innings for the first time this season when he struck out the side in the fourth inning on 13 pitches, but Xander Bogaerts’ sharp two-out single had La Russa calling for the bullpen with two outs in the fifth. Cease’s pitch count was just 85, but Rafael Devers was coming to the plate.
Evan Marshall allowed a nubbed infield single after entering, but he struck out Marwin Gonzalez to end the threat. Still, that left 12 more outs for the bullpen to cover, and it didn’t quite hold together. Marshall put the Sox behind for the first time in the sixth by allowing a loud two-out double to center, followed by a quieter Enrique Hernandez single.
If you wanted to blame bad luck, you could. While Cease dug his own holes, he also wasn’t rewarded for weak contact. In the third inning alone, he allowed three singles hit at speeds of 82.9, 72.4 and 68.5 mph, with an 82.5 mph sac fly for good measure. At the end, José Ruiz gave up a two-run double on a 71.2 mph bloop that put the game away.
That Ruiz was even pitching meant that you could blame La Russa if you wanted. Codi Heuer lost the lead when he gave up a solo shot to Gonzalez to open the eighth, and he faced four more batters, retiring two. The contact was getting louder as Heuer approached 40 pitches and the heart of Boston’s order, so it made sense to pull him.
It didn’t make much sense to go to Ruiz, who always tends to look OK until too much is asked of him. In this case, he walked both Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez to bring a run home, then gave up the fateful bloop double to Bogaerts.
The extra runs mattered, because the White Sox notched a run in the top of the ninth. Andrew Vaughn reached on an “infield single” — it should’ve been an error on Christian Arroyo, who bounced a throw past first base despite Vaughn being two steps away from the bag — and he came around to score on an Adam Eaton double two batters later. Alas, the White Sox were still two batters away from having the tying run at the plate, and Yoán Moncada grounded out to end the game.
The offense had better chances earlier, so you can point fingers that way. They went just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, missing on chances to run up the score on Nick Pivetta early. José Abreu and Yermin Mercedes cashed in consecutive first-inning walks with a double and a productive groundout, but an encore was delayed.
In the second, Vaughn drew a walk and moved to third on a beautiful hit-and-run with Nick Madrigal, but Tim Anderson struck out for the second out. Eaton walked to extend the inning, and Moncada followed with a 407-foot drive to center. The only problem is that part of Fenway Park is 420 feet deep, and a grand slam in most parks was a third out there.
Until the ninth when they trailed by four, they could only muster another run in the seventh, when Anderson led off with a single, stole second, took third on a throwing error and came home on a sac fly.
Umpires made the White Sox hitters look a little worse than they were. Gabe Morales’ strike zone unraveled as the game unfolded, peaking in an eighth inning when Adam Ottovino struck out the side on backwards K’s to Mercedes, Zack Collins and Luis Robert. Strike three to Collins was particularly gross.
None of the elements out of the White Sox’s control were enough to say they lost the game because of it, but with the way the team is struggling to put enough facets of the game together, bad breaks are harder to absorb.
*The White Sox came out of the gate ready to play. After scoring two in the top of the first, they closed out the bottom of the frame with a slick 3-6-1 double play. And after Moncada’s grand slam bid died on the warning track in center in the top of the second, Eaton robbed Devers of a homer in front of the short wall in right afterward.
*The White Sox were more active in the running game. Vaughn was put into motion twice with Madrigal at the plate, Anderson stole second and forced a throwing error, and Robert swiped second as well.