White Sox

White Sox scoreless streak increases to 32 innings with loss to Angels

White Sox scoreless streak increases to 32 innings with loss to Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. — James Shields allowed two hits on Saturday evening and lost.

That’s the sad and sorry state of the White Sox offense this week, feeble and incapable of scoring a run.

The White Sox were shut out for a third straight game on Saturday night and the offense’s scoreless streak now stands at 32 innings after a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in front of 39,620 at Angel Stadium. The White Sox couldn’t convert in the ninth inning with the tying run on third base and one out as Matt Shoemaker struck out Todd Frazier and Justin Morneau to preserve a six-hit shutout. Shoemaker struck out 13 and the White Sox lost for the fourth time in five games despite Shields allowing one run in a complete-game effort.

“You wear it if it’s just one game, let alone three,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We’ve got to figure out.

“It’s surprising in the big leagues when it goes this long.”

The White Sox offense has begun to produce some nasty numbers, the type that makes you want to close the book and never open it again.

They haven’t scored since the third inning last Saturday in a victory over the Atlanta Braves, which marks the fourth-longest scoreless streak in franchise history.

In that span, they’ve been handled by Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz, Los Angeles’ Hector Santiago and now Shoemaker. The trio has combined for 16 hits allowed and 30 strikeouts in 23 scoreless innings. It’s the first time the White Sox have been shut out in three straight games since June 1968.

The White Sox, who face Jered Weaver on Sunday, are also now just seven innings shy of the longest-scoreless streak in franchise history, which was set May 22-26, 1968. The loss dropped the White Sox to 45-45.

“We need to start making a push and put ourselves in a good position in the standings,” outfielder Adam Eaton said. “This is crunch time and its kind of gut-check time. We need to get out of this and be better. We need to be better in all facets. It starts with our offense.”

There was no better opportunity for the White Sox to end their maddening ways than in the ninth when Eaton doubled to left center off Shoemaker. Not only was Shoemaker over 100 pitches, he was facing the meat of the White Sox lineup for the fourth time.

“You get these guys to see (him) that many times, you figure you’ve got a shot,” Ventura said.

Jose Abreu fell behind in the count early but worked it full.

But the slugger, who doubled twice earlier, grounded out to shortstop, which kept Eaton at second. That became even more consequential when Melky Cabrera singled sharply to left field and Eaton could only advance to third. Todd Frazier then swung at two pitches out of the zone to strike out for the third time in four at-bats before Shoemaker struck out Justin Morneau, who hit the ball hard in his earlier at-bats.

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Instead of being let off the hook or perhaps even rewarded with a late victory, Shields settled for a difficult loss. He allowed a leadoff triple to Yunel Escobar to start the game and the run eventually scored on a Mike Trout RBI groundout. But from there, Shields — who allowed two hits and walked two — settled in and retired 22 of the next 25 batters he faced. Starting with his June 23 outing in Boston, Shields has a 2.43 ERA over his last 33.1 innings.

It didn’t matter.

“Coming off that All-Star break, it’s always nice to pitch well,” Shields said. “But my main focus is to win ballgames. I don’t care if I throw eight innings and give up one run — we lose, I’ve gotta pitch better.

“Sometimes that’s the way the game goes. This is a crazy game. I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff happen. Hopefully the baseball starts swinging back our way.”

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: