White Sox

White Sox fall to Pirates as losing streak hits seven

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White Sox fall to Pirates as losing streak hits seven

The effort continues to be there, but the results remain woefully short for the White Sox.

The Pittsburgh Pirates blooped, bled and broken-batted the White Sox into submission in front of 21, 296 on Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Gregory Polanco’s RBI groundout in the eighth inning was just enough to send the White Sox to their seventh straight loss as they fell, 3-2, to Pittsburgh.

After losing four straight Interleague meetings with the Pirates, the White Sox — who were outhit by Pittsburgh 46-13 and finished with four or fewer hits in four straight games for the first time in franchise history — dropped to a season-worst nine games below .500 despite rallying twice against All-Star-to-be Gerrit Cole.

“Sometimes the ball has different ideas of what it wants to do,” White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. “It was just one of those days. We had to work for everything we got.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Robin Ventura upset by White Sox defensive miscue]

During their go-ahead rally in the eighth, the Pirates stayed with the same formula they used all night, heeding the advice of Wee Willie Keeler, who famously said: “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

Tied at 2, Jung Ho Kang reached on a one-out infield single — Pittsburgh’s fourth of the game — against Jake Petricka. Pedro Alvarez then got enough of a 2-2 curveball from Zach Duke to pitch it into center and put runners on the corners. Polanco hit a grounder to the right side and Gordon Beckham couldn’t field it cleanly, making an unlikely double play impossible and giving the Pirates the lead for good.

“They caught some breaks,” White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton said.

Pittsburgh utilized the same practice for seven innings against Samardzija, dinking him to the tune of 10 singles.

But Samardzija didn’t cave, limiting his opponents to two runs. Kang singled off Samardzija’s glove in the fourth to drive in a run and make it 1-0. An inning later, Pittsburgh loaded the bases as Samardzija couldn’t track down Jordy Mercer’s single off his glove, Corey Hart hit a jam shot to right and the pitcher hit Chris Stewart. Josh Harrison’s sac fly made it a 2-1 game.

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Samardzija struck out seven and allowed two runs, throwing strikes on 78 of 114 pitches.

“He had his spots there where they didn’t hit stuff hard necessarily,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He pitched well enough to win.”

With the aid of a wicked two-seam fastball, scoring off Cole (11-2) seemed like an impossible feat.

But the White Sox did anyway as Melky Cabrera had a sac fly in the fourth inning to tie it at 1 — Jose Abreu had doubled and advanced on a fly out. Three innings later, Geovany Soto crushed a solo homer to left center to tie it at 2.

The White Sox also missed out on two great chances against Cole, who limited them to three hits and two runs in seven innings. Eaton singled and moved up on a wild pitch with no outs in the first inning but never advanced from there.

Eaton then walked to start the sixth inning, stole second and moved to third on J.B. Shuck’s bunt. But Abreu grounded out with the infield in, and Cabrera flew out to left center after Adam LaRoche walked with two outs.

“We’ve had some opportunities to win some games, and we just haven’t been able to mount anything offensively,” Ventura said. “When we have that opportunity, when we have that inning when it looks like it’s your way, we don’t do anything with it — that’s the frustrating part.”

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: