Rays 9, White Sox 3: A down Easter, mostly due to offense

Vince Velasquez didn’t lose this game for the White Sox.

He also didn’t win this game. In fact, he’ll come away with the loss, and it’s one he earned.

But despite the four-run hole he dug the White Sox thanks to scattershot command and his own goofy error, he kept the Rays in check long enough for the White Sox to create multiple opportunities to jump back into the game.

The White Sox just couldn’t score a run on their own accord, at least until a Gavin Sheets garbage-time solo shot in the ninth inning. Despite a Tampa Bay bullpen day letting them back into the proceedings, they couldn’t narrow the game within two, and the Rays eventually pulled away against the weaker portion of the White Sox bullpen.

There are a number of solaces, starting with the fact that the White Sox still have won all three of their series this season. Tony La Russa made a good-faith effort for the sweep with a real lineup on a Sunday, and they had two particularly juicy chances to turn the tide, so the outcome has nothing to do with the way they were run.

Velasquez also rebounded from a 35-pitch first inning made more miserable by the fact that it started with a three-pitch strikeout of Brandon Lowe. His breaking stuff danced for about two batters, and then he lost the thread. He had a chance to limit the damage to one walked-in run when he got Josh Lowe to chop back to the mound, but Velasquez mishandled the hop, and then couldn’t recover with enough grace to get the out at first.

Instead of returning to the dugout down 1-0 after one, Velasquez trailed 2-0 with only one out, and an RBI single and one more bases-loaded walk doubled the margin before he could get out of the inning.

Had Velasquez responded with an awful second, it could’ve been an outing that cost Tanner Banks his spot in the White Sox bullpen. Banks would have to eat three innings, the front office would send him down for a fresh arm with seven straight AL Central games coming up, and who knows whether he could count on returning. Fortunately, Velasquez got within one out of five innings with no further damage, and Banks was only tasked with getting the game through six, which he did scorelessly.

Instead, Anderson Severino looks like the most vulnerable member of the roster. He looked like the guy I saw during the Birmingham Barons’ 13-walk inning last May, even though he didn’t walk anybody. He did plunk a batter, threw two wild pitches, threw another really high fastball for a Grandal passed ball, and he also was well off on a pickoff throw, giving the Sox three errors from their pitchers alone (Velasquez also airmailed a pickoff attempt).

In between Velasquez’s initial struggles and the collapse of Severino late, the White Sox offense failed to make a case for higher-leverage relievers, so at least Liam Hendriks, Kendall Graveman and Co. all received a natural day off. The Sox only three hits, or two before Sheets’ solo shot in the ninth.

The fourth and fifth innings set up beautifully for them despite the lack of force. They had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth inning after José Abreu’s opposite-field single and two walks, and the Rays even spotted the White Sox the first run when Chris Mazza grazed Sheets on the knee to make it 4-1. Mazza also tried to give Josh Harrison a chance to step up, but Harrison fouled off two hanging slider and chased two on a full count, the second of which resulted in a swinging strike three. Jake Burger then grounded out on a first-pitch sinker to finish off the threat.

An inning later, the Sox again loaded the bases after one out on a single and two walks, but Yasmani Grandal popped out. The Rays once again tried to prime the pump with a passed ball that scored Adam Engel, but Anderson tried to make his own #WILDPITCHOFFENSE on a pitch that wasn’t particularly errant, and he was nabbed by Francisco Mejia and Jalen Beeks just in time.

It’s hard to fault Anderson for thinking he had to score himself, but he had a rough game in the luck department. He was denied three times, even though that’s the Thursday programming during Holy Week. In the first inning, Josh Lowe robbed him of a leadoff homer. In the third inning, it looked like he won a race to first base on a weak grounder to the right side that would’ve scored Engel, but a replay overturned the ball.

In the end, Sheets might’ve had the most productive day. A guy who hasn’t had a lot of convincing swings swatted an unremarkable Tommy Romero slider out to right. It looked well gone off the bat, but with the way balls are carrying, it barely cleared the fence.

Bullet points:

*The White Sox were active on the basepaths, with Engel swiping two bases and Anderson one.

*The Sox were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, while the Rays were 5-for-16.

*After two walkless games, the Sox managed to draw five walks along with the Sheets HBP despite some clusters of bad discipline.

*Eloy Jiménez missed a cutoff man in the ninth inning on a hopeless throw home, allowing two runners to move up, but it might’ve been a hero shot with the game out of hand.

Record: 6-3 | Box score | Statcast

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Right Size Wrong Shape

I’m just here for the clever Holy Week references.

The joke should have been followed up with a rimshot “Trid-uum tssh!”

Just John

Missed the game today. Does “with the way balls are carrying” refer to something specific about the way the park is playing right now? Or is it just a reference to all the warning track flies lately? I watched the TA robbery clip and it looked like a no doubters to me, until it wasn’t.

phillyd

Have they started using humidors in all parks yet? Could that be a factor?

lifelongjd

The Harrison at bat with the bases loaded was awful and a turning point in the game IMO. He swung at balls 4 & 5 way out of the zone (fouling off the first and through the second). I know it’s still early, but he’s not looking like the solution at second base.

dwjm3

Harrison wasn’t even league average any of the last four seasons. I hope Hahn has some vision he can execute to get better at that position. ClearlyJerry and his miserly ways weren’t going to allow Marcus to be signed. We need a long term solution at that position.

jhomeslice

Their best option to get somebody who can hit at 2b might be Moncada if Burger looks pretty solid defensively at 3b. Otherwise it’s Burger who would need to acclimate to the position, but there is no way he’s doing that on the big league squad with no prior experience. So he would have to be sent down. Otherwise, it will be on their list of July 31 trade targets again.

Last edited 11 months ago by jhomeslice
FlyingSpaghettiMonster

Although Milwaukee moving Moustakas to 2nd a few seasons ago provides a model for doing so (although maybe not a model you necessarily want to follow).

jhomeslice

True. But Moncada has played 2b for a full season and could probably handle the position without being too far below average defensively, so it might work much better than Moustakas.

Maybe unlikely, but I see them getting nothing positive from Harrison so this is just one option they could consider that might give them a decent 2b that does not involve a trade.

texag10

I mean, let’s assume that Moncada wouldn’t be impacted offensively by the move which isn’t even a given. The last full season of playing 2nd base, DRS had Moncada at -3. Last year at 3B, he was +10. Now maybe this is oversimplifying or maybe its bad math but it looks to me like Burger would have to be 1.3 WAR better than Harrison just to “break even” on this lineup change. If Moncada drifts back towards league average at the plate because he’s focused on defense, the problem gets worse. Maybe we should just leave our 2nd best player at his normal position.

jhomeslice

Did not realize Moncada was that bad defensively at 2b, you make a good point. He is certainly one of their only plus defenders. Which leaves the Sox with a gaping hole at 2b and no good in-house options, pretty much the same as last year.

jhomeslice

The cold weather definitely contributing to the low scoring and balls not carrying. It’s been like 15-20 degrees below normal, which just isn’t good baseball weather. Hopefully when the weather heats up the bats will too.

Harrison giving them even less than what they got from Cesar last year. I’m not sure warmer weather is going to make that look like a good signing, but Josh is not alone in starting slow, to be fair. Semien off to an abysmal start that wouldn’t have made it any better so far.

Trooper Galactus

Cesar’s running a good average and so-so OBP, but man, his power has completely disappeared.

Kelly Wunsch N' Munch

Although Velasquez isn’t entirely to blame by any means, I’m still scratching my head as to why the White Sox felt the need to sign him to a Major League contract. I can’t say with certainly that there wasn’t a market for him, but somehow with his track record, I have the feeling teams around the league weren’t beating down his door with Major League offers. Felt like another Eaton-esque move. Maybe I’m wrong about him, and he’ll turn out to be a competent pickup? I’ll gladly eat crow if that’s the case.

As Cirensica

Maybe running Yaz as a clean up hitter is not such a good idea?

a-t

A lot of that has to do with how patient Yaz is, and that’s still such a small % diff from the rest of the guys outside Abreu. Last year a metric ton of those PAs ended in a walk for him— that extends rallies and will lead to big innings (and greater total runs for the team) than committing to “move the guy over” traditional small-ball crap. It’s only kinda unhelpful with shallow lineups, but that shouldn’t really be too much of an issue for this squad even with injuries.