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Johnny Cueto showed how tough it can be to win for this White Sox team when the effort on the mound falls short of Michael Kopech-like dominance.
And that’s no slight at Cueto, who did the job asked of him by throwing a quality start. It took a different shape compared to his other outings, which tended to unravel as he wended his way into the third time through the order.
This time, he gave up a two-run homer to Will Smith in the first inning, followed by a Cody Bellinger solo shot in the second inning. He needed 41 pitches to get through two, but then he only needed 49 pitches to get through his next four. He allowed just one more hit and one walk the rest of the way.
Normally, you’d say he kept the Sox in the game. Instead, once Cueto fell behind 2-0 in the first, the Sox seemed out of it from their very first trip to the plate against Tony Gonsolin. Maybe even before.
It didn’t help that Leury García took that very first trip to the plate. He carried a .199 OBP into the game. After an 0-for-4 night, that OBP is down to .193.
The at-bats were ghastly, too. He set the tone by popping out to the catcher on the first pitch, and Gonsolin retired the side on nine pitches. He struck out the other three trips, including one that quashed the White Sox’s best opportunity of the game.
The White Sox had Gonsolin on the ropes in the fifth. Jake Burger led off with a homer on a full-count slider, and Gavin Sheets followed it with a double. AJ Pollock needed to watch six pitches out of the zone before he was awarded a walk, but home plate umpire Jerry Meals finally gave it to him. Danny Mendick then hit a weak chopper to the left side that was only good for a force at second.
Up came García with runners on the corners and one out, and he struck out on four pitches. He first swung over a good curveball that darted low and in, but then he fouled back a roller before whiffing on a splitter that stayed thigh-high. Luis Robert then flied out to center, which wasn’t productive.
The Sox couldn’t threaten after that, partially because José Ruiz gave up a solo shot to Trea Turner opening the ninth, which pushed the game outside a bloop-and-a-blast range. Therefore, when Yasmani Grandal achieved said bloop with a two-out single to keep hope alive, Burger came to the plate with the tying run still on deck. Burger, who was responsible for half of the Sox’s four hits, struck out to end the game.
It’s hard scoring runs for the White Sox these days, so it’s baffling why Tony La Russa makes it so much harder oby batting two guys with sub-.500 OPSes in front of the batters anybody actually wants to see at the plate. This pretty much sums it up:
*Cueto dropped to 0-3 despite posting a 3.23 ERA and becoming the first White Sox pitcher to go at least six innings in each of his first five starts of a season since Chris Sale in 2016.
*The White Sox actually earned more free bases than the Dodgers, 2-1 (both walked once, Robert got plunked), and they also had seven times as many at-bats with runners in scoring position. They just went 0-for-7, whereas the Dodgers were 0-for-1.
*Mendick and Yoán Moncada had a nice night on the left side of the infield, but Robert and Gavin Sheets collided in right center.