White Sox

Chris Sale allows three homers as White Sox fall to Indians

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Chris Sale allows three homers as White Sox fall to Indians

The home run bug hit Chris Sale and the White Sox hard on Monday afternoon.

Ryan Raburn homered twice and Mike Aviles blasted another as the Cleveland Indians topped the White Sox 3-2 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Sale struck out eight, but yielded three solo homers in seven innings and the White Sox had their four-game win streak snapped as Trevor Bauer corrected himself after a rough start. The White Sox scored twice in the second inning and then had 22 of their last 26 batters retired.

“I think all of us are frustrated,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “It’s just been a tough year on a lot of things, offense for a lot of us, and myself definitely included in that. You can’t change anything. You just keep working hard. We’re running out of time to say that hopefully it turns, but just keep working hard.”

Despite not having his best stuff, Sale had a no-hitter in progress until Aviles homered to lead off the fourth inning to cut the White Sox lead to 2-1. One batter later, Raburn tied it with a solo homer to right center.

[MORE: White Sox could go to a six-man rotation]

Raburn followed that with a monster blast to left with one out in the sixth inning to put Cleveland ahead for good 3-2. The two homers gives Raburn four against Sale and 20 against the White Sox out of the 81 he has hit in his career. Four of Raburn’s eight multi-homer games have come against the White Sox.

Sale also yielded a lot of other hard contact but allowed only the three runs and seven hits in seven innings. He struck out eight, which gives him 247 this season with possibly five starts left.

It’s the first time Sale has allowed three homers in a game since Sept. 15, 2013 against Cleveland. White Sox starter Erik Johnson also gave up three solo homers in Sunday’s victory.

“Today was my day to pick em up and I didn’t,” Sale said. “I need to be that guy to be able to pick up my team, because they’ve picked me up my last time out. The only two losses we’ve had in the last week were on my day, so I’ve got to do something to change that and come out fighting next time.”

The White Sox offense started quickly — well, actually Bauer started slowly. Bauer walked five of the first 10 batters he faced, including three straight on 12 pitches to start the second inning. The White Sox took advantage of Bauer’s wild streak as Carlos Sanchez had an RBI fielder’s choice and Tyler Flowers had a sac fly as they took a 2-0 lead.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

But Bauer buckled down and allowed only three base runners over his final five innings, retiring 16 of the last 19 he faced. Bauer allowed two earned runs and two hits with five walks and six strikeouts in seven innings.

Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen each posted scoreless innings to close out the game.

“At that point, he's almost trying to give it to you,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We didn't get anything out of it. We got two hits, Avi got two hits off him. Apparently, he was doing something good besides the wildness. But he was attempting to give it to you and we couldn't do anything with it.

“It's hot and cold. It was right there for the taking.”

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: