White Sox

Chris Sale, White Sox stumble in loss to Twins

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Chris Sale, White Sox stumble in loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins had Chris Sale on his toes Wednesday afternoon while the poor play of the White Sox was prominently displayed.

Despite the presence of their ace, who maintained a record-strikeout pace with 10 more, the White Sox stumbled and bumbled their way through a 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins in front of 28,854 at Target Field. Losers in 10 of their last 13, the White Sox made three more errors, added in a mental mistake and couldn’t solve Phil Hughes on a day in which Sale needed their support. Sale (6-4) tied Randy Johnson with his seventh straight double-digit strikeout performance, but it wasn’t enough as the Twins tagged him for six runs (five earned).

“They’ve been swinging with authority and you never know when they’re going to do it, first pitch, second pitch,” Sale said. “They’re an athletic team, they’re professional and they go up there with an idea of what they’re going to do and stick to it seems like.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Clutch offense reappears for White Sox after 20 days]

Minnesota had Sale’s number in two of three previous meetings this season and Wednesday was no different. Sale had been on an epic chase this month, tying a mark previously set by Hall of Famers Johnson and Pedro Martinez with five straight 12-strikeout starts in a row. If he reached a dozen again, Sale would have become the first pitcher in major league history to do it in six straight starts.

He looked as if he was on pace to reach that goal with six strikeouts through three scoreless until the Twins woke up in the fourth with three doubles to take a 3-1 lead. Sale bounced back with two more strikeouts in the fifth and another in the sixth, keeping the deficit at two runs. But Kurt Suzuki doubled to start the seventh and Kennys Vargas singled. Adam Eaton then overran Shane Robinson’s RBI single, the error allowing Vargas to score from first and Robinson to reach third. Brian Dozier singled to give Minnesota a 6-1 lead.

Sale is 1-3 with a 6.46 ERA against the Twins this season, including three straight losses. He’s 5-1 with a 1.88 ERA in his 10 other starts.

“They just do a good job of staying with it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Once they get some guys on, they’re able to find some holes.

“Chris had two tough innings, and other than that, he pitched well. These guys find a way to get it done when they get guys on base.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Tim Anderson captures All-Star Game MVP]

The rest of the White Sox didn’t get it done in the field or on the bases.

Conor Gillaspie and Alexei Ramirez also committed errors but Sale pitched around those as he tied Johnson, who had seven straight starts with 10 strikeouts in 2001.

But Minnesota’s second rally forced Sale out after 6 2/3 innings.

It also provided Hughes (6-6) with a huge cushion.

The White Sox had a lot of loud contact early, including an Adam LaRoche solo homer in the second inning that put them up 1-0.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

But aside from LaRoche, who also had two doubles, and Adam Eaton, who had two hits, the White Sox had no answers for Hughes, who retired 21 of 26 after the second-inning homer. Hughes allowed a run and six hits in eight innings and finished with five strikeouts.

He also got a little help from Eaton with two outs and a man on in the fifth inning when the White Sox leadoff man stopped on his way to first base after hitting a line drive at Twins shortstop Eduardo Nunez, believing the ball had been caught. But Nunez couldn’t haul it in and though he bobbled it first, still had time to throw to first to retire Eaton. Eaton admitted he had a “Sean Casey” moment, believing Nunez caught it twice while acknowledging his mistake.

“We put some good at-bats together (early) but didn’t have anything to show for it,” Eaton said. “We need to continue to put pressure on them in later innings, but it didn’t come together.

“When it rains it pours scenario -- we have to pick ourselves up as a unit.

“We have to play better behind him and make plays.”

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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USA TODAY

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: