White Sox

Donaldson's walk-off HR sends White Sox to fourth straight loss

robertson-sox-insider-0526.png

Donaldson's walk-off HR sends White Sox to fourth straight loss

TORONTO -- The White Sox have dealt with plenty of adversity lately but Tuesday night’s 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays has the harshest sting.

Not only had the White Sox rallied three times and taken a late lead, they had their outstanding closer on to protect a two-run advantage. With Jeff Samardzija starting Wednesday afternoon, they had visions of a series victory -- albeit a hard-fought one -- in their sights.

Three batters later, those good feelings were dashed when Josh Donaldson drove a three-run, opposite-field home run off David Robertson. Donaldson’s second homer sent the White Sox to their seventh loss in eight tries and fourth in a row.

“It’s frustrating for me because the team played really well today,” said Robertson, who has converted nine of 11 saves. “They battled their butts off, got the lead back and for them to play as hard as they did today and for me to go in and give it up in the ninth is really tough. We needed this win.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura made it pretty clear how badly he wanted the victory when he called upon Robertson with a two-run lead and two outs in the eighth inning and a man on third.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Robertson retired pinch hitter Russell Martin to strand the run. But he didn’t record any outs in the ninth as Josh Thole singled, Jose Reyes doubled him to third and Donaldson drove a 1-1 fastball out to right for the crushing defeat.

“Being a closer is an unforgiving position, especially if you don’t get it done,” Ventura said. “We trust him. We’re going to trust him again to go back out there and close it done. This is just one of those he didn’t get, but he’s the right guy to be in there. It’s a tough one.”

What makes it difficult is how the White Sox got to that position in the first place.

Unlike the previous eight games, when the offense produced 15 runs, the White Sox fought back all evening.

Trailing 7-6 in the eighth, Carlos Sanchez doubled and scored on Adam Eaton’s RBI single with Eaton advancing to second on the throw home. Melky Cabrera’s infield single put runners on the corners and Jose Abreu hit a slow chopper to the right side that -- after a challenged call showed he was safe -- put the White Sox ahead 8-7.

Adam LaRoche, who had two hits and reached four times, followed with a single to right and Alexei Ramirez singled in Abreu for a two-run lead.

[RELATED: More rest coming for Avisail Garcia and his ailing knee]

Abreu’s eighth-inning RBI followed his first homer with a man on base since April 18. Trailing 3-2 in the fifth, Abreu ripped a 3-1 fastball from R.A. Dickey for a three-run homer. His last non-solo homer was April 18 in Detroit, a span of 138 plate appearances.

The White Sox scored twice in the second inning on four singles to take a 2-1 lead. Gordon Beckham had an RBI single and Sanchez had a sac fly. They also tied the score at 6 in the sixth inning on a Cabrera RBI fielder’s choice.

Their nine runs was the second-highest output of the season as the White Sox finished with 14 hits.

“Our guys fought back offensively, it’s a nice sign for us to do that,” Ventura said. “Not only against a knuckleballer but against everybody else. We got down and came back and you lose a tough one.”

White Sox starter John Danks was just as upset as Robertson after he surrendered the lead twice on two-run doubles by Jose Bautista.

Donaldson, who had a solo homer in the first, made the most of an extra out in the third. Abreu dropped a foul pop out after a long run and Donaldson doubled ahead of a two-out, two-run, ground-rule double by Bautista to make it 3-2.  

Thole’s RBI double in the fifth off Danks cut the White Sox lead to 5-4.

Danks -- who gave up six earned runs and seven hits in five innings -- walked Donaldson with one out and Bautista doubled in two more runs to give the Jays a 6-5 lead. Bautista also had a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh inning off Jake Petricka.

“Any loss is frustrating, but those guys scored nine runs for us,” Danks said. “We know we can get on a run, we can win games. We just have to go out there and do it. Unfortunately, the different phases of our team aren’t clicking all at the same time consistently. We just have to keep on working at it, and hopefully it will pay off.”

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

hahn-pod.jpg
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: