White Sox

Early deficit sends White Sox to sixth straight defeat

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Early deficit sends White Sox to sixth straight defeat

The White Sox played their infield in with one out in the first inning on Wednesday night.

Such is the state of an offense that continues to struggle that the White Sox put that much emphasis on a single run only three batters into the game.

Though they eventually snapped their scoreless streak at 30 innings, the White Sox couldn’t overcome another first-inning deficit in a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of 19,194 at U.S. Cellular Field. Aside from three first-inning runs, John Danks was very good, though it couldn’t prevent the White Sox from their sixth straight loss as Jeff Locke stymied them for six innings.

“You get tired of tipping your cap,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We're going to face pitchers just like this and we're going to face better ones. You have to be able to answer the bell and mount something that's going to be a little more than what we're doing right now.

“You have to be able to score.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The way things have gone lately, the White Sox were right to pull their infield in with Josh Harrison on third, Andrew McCutchen at the plate and only one out in the first inning.

Not only had the White Sox not scored since the second inning Sunday, Pittsburgh had the left-handed pitcher Locke on the mound. Entering Wednesday, White Sox hitters had a collective .204/.246/.277 slash line with six homers and 32 RBIs against south paws in 486 plate appearances.

Just like the rest, Locke had White Sox spellbound for five innings. He retired the first nine hitters he faced and struck out seven batters through five, including the side in the second.

Plate ump Alfonso Marquez also helped in the fourth inning as Adam Eaton had second base stolen but was ruled out for interference by Melky Cabrera, who had stuck out.

“I was surprised,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “I tried to reach with my swing and just lost the balance. I think it was a bad call for the home plate umpire because I didn’t try to interfere with the play.”

[MORE: Hahn wants to see better brand of baseball from Sox]

Marquez threw Ventura out of the game for arguing the call, the 11th time he has been ejected in his career.

“We’re always on the wrong side of it,” Ventura said. “You get tired of that.

“We've had it before where Tyler's throwing and they say you have to make contact. I'm just tired of the interpretations.”

The White Sox collectively are fed up with their lack of offense.

They finally showed a pulse in the sixth inning when Eaton walked with two outs and scored on Cabrera’s RBI double down the left-field line -- his first extra-base hit against a lefty this season. Jose Abreu walked and Avisail Garcia singled as the White Sox trimmed a three-run deficit to 3-2.

[RELATED: Ventura gets tossed during Wednesday's loss]

The runs were the first put up by the White Sox since Carlos Sanchez singled in the second inning on Sunday. But Locke retired Adam LaRoche and the Pittsburgh bullpen delivered three scoreless innings to close out their third straight victory over the White Sox.

It’s the 34th time in 64 games the White Sox have scored three runs or fewer this season. The team is 5-29 in those games. Earlier Wednesday, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said the team’s offense needs to start producing or changes would be on the way.

Danks looked as if he was in for a long night but rebounded.

He gave up an RBI single to McCutchen and a two-run homer to Jung Ho Kang.

But Danks retired 19 of 20 batters into the seventh inning. He allowed three earned runs and five hits with four strikeouts in seven innings.

“We are underachieving,” Hahn said. “It certainly wasn’t something we anticipated.

“There does come a point though where you can only look at the back of the baseball card for so long and say it’s going to get better. You need to start seeing some results on the field.”

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: