White Sox

Floyd struggles as Orioles drop Sox

739086.png

Floyd struggles as Orioles drop Sox

A homestand that began with great promise ended with a thud Thursday, as the Orioles secured a series win with a 5-3 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. After kicking off the seven-game stretch on the South Side with a pair of wins against the front-running Tigers, the Sox dropped four of their next five, including three of four to the perennial basement-dwellers of the American League East.

Gavin Floyd labored through six innings, allowing five runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. The righty has now walked eight in 17 23 innings this season, although manager Robin Ventura isn't concerned with his high rate of free passes given his strikeout total is double his walk total.

"He strikes out a lot, too, so I think youre going to have a little bit of both," Ventura said after the game. "You want to cut those down, but he's still pitching fine."

Baltimore plated two runs right off the bat, with Adam Jones picking up the first of his three RBIs on a liner to right that Alex Rios played into a double. Nick Johnson followed that up with a groundout to bring home Baltimore's second run, representing the mustachioed DH's first RBI since May of 2010. The Orioles took the lead for good in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by J.J. Hardy and a two-run blast by Jones, his fifth home run of the season and second of the series.

"You want to keep the team in the game a little bit better," Floyd said. "I had an opportunity to -- you know, threw two there to Jones, I mean, with a base open, and hung probably one of the few breaking balls I did all day, and he hit it. Hes a good hitter. Hes hot right now. I probably should have kept that in mind better."

The Sox mounted a rally in the the third, tying the game on RBIs by Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. But the Sox could only muster two runs, as Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers both struck out with the bases loaded to end the White Sox threat. A ninth-inning rally also fell just shy, as the Sox loaded the bases with two out for Rios, who struck out looking to end the game.

Strikeouts continued to be an issue for the White Sox, who as as team whiffed 10 times in six innings against Orioles starter Jason Hammel. Those 10 strikeouts were a career-high for Hammel, who entered Thursday averaging about five strikeouts per nine innings since the start of the 2011 season.

"I made some good pitches," Hammel said. "I executed with two strikes. They're a very aggressive team, as well. They're going swing at bad stuff if you get ahead in the count. I think I exploited that today."

Dunn struck out to lead off the bottom of the fifth, with a smattering of boos greeting him as he trekked back to the dugout. The voiced displeasure probably wasn't deserved, though, as Dunn's strikeout broke a streak of reaching base on six consecutive plate appearances. He did strike out in his next at-bat, though, before delivering a key single in the ninth.

"I cant speak for everyone, I know me, I think Im being a little too selective and when Im getting myself in hitters counts they are making kind of pitchers pitches kind of things," Dunn said. "Im usually able to lay off and Im swinging at them."

Brent Lillibridge (3), Dayan Viciedo (3), Rios (3), Tyler Flowers (2) and Alejandro De Aza (2) all struck out multiple times as well, although Rios and De Aza each reached base twice. The Sox totaled 16 strikeouts in the game.

"I think some of them, you can put it down as maybe not having the right approach," Ventura said of the high strikeout total. "Some of them are just good pitches. It's going to happen. Other teams do strike out so it's maybe a little bit of both. You just try to learn from it and work on it and cut those down."

The problem certainly isn't confined to one or two players. Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham have 30 strikeouts between them, and neither player was in the starting lineup Thursday.

"Not everybody right now has the best feel they're going to have all year," Konerko explained. "No one's crazy besides A.J. Everybody's getting some hits here or there, but not locked.

"I think we'll get better with that as it goes on, especially the younger guys. Some of these guys have never faced these guys. It's just tough. The more they do, the better they'll be against them."

A much more encouraging trend also continued Thursday, with Flowers gunning down a pair of Orioles baserunners trying to steal second. Both Endy Chavez and Robert Andino were thrown out by the White Sox catcher, who is a perfect 4-4 in nailing would-be base-stealers this year. Combined with A.J. Pierzynski, Sox catchers have thrown all but one runner on seven opponent stolen base attempts this year.

The loss dropped the White Sox record against Baltimore to 20-25 since 2007. And while losing three of four to the Orioles isn't the best way to hit the road, the team is trying to stay positive early in the season.

"Other than the last four or five innings in Texas on the third night, we've either won been in every game up until the end. That's a good sign and I think that means guys are up there taking a lot of pride in their at-bats and the way they're going about it, and relievers are holding those games close when we are behind a few runs," Konerko said. "It's kind of as planned. You'd always like a 10-2 record after 12 games or something, but the way we're going about it, it's really good to see. We're doing it right and just have to keep trucking along."

In Astros' dominance, White Sox fans might catch a glimpse of their team's future

springer.jpg
USA TODAY

In Astros' dominance, White Sox fans might catch a glimpse of their team's future

It might end up an ugly week for the White Sox in Houston. But try to find some beauty in what this Astros team looks like. Because it's what the White Sox hope to look like, eventually.

While White Sox fans were likely staring with a frown at Brad Peacock mowing down their team's lineup and at a couple home runs absolutely blasted out of Minute Maid Park in the first of this four-game series Monday night, know that the inverse of that feeling is what the White Sox front office is hoping to deliver in the coming seasons.

The Astros, along with the Cubs on the North Side of Chicago, are the template for what the White Sox are trying to do with their ongoing rebuilding process. Houston experienced some hideous seasons on the way to becoming a perennial contender and a World Series champion in 2017, losing a combined 416 games in four seasons from 2011 to 2014. In 2015, the Astros made their first postseason appearance in a decade. Two years later, they were the world champs, and they remain an annual title contender and are currently the best team in baseball two years after that.

The first part of that should sound familiar, as the White Sox have lost a combined 195 games in the two seasons since this rebuild officially began. Things are better now than they were during last year's 100-loss campaign, but it's expected to be another season of more losses than wins and another season without a playoff berth on the South Side, which would be the franchise's 11th straight to end without a trip to the postseason.

The second half of the Astros rags-to-riches story is yet to come for the White Sox, who are still waiting for young players to develop at both the major league and minor league levels, still waiting for the entire core to assemble in the big leagues. That includes, right now, waiting for certain players to recover from serious injuries. That includes watching growing pains up and down the organization. It's not unexpected for such things to happen in the middle of a rebuild. But when mired in the losing years, they become constant sources of frustration for fans.

Just like no one in Houston looks back fondly on the 100-loss seasons of 2011, 2012 and 2013, it's unlikely South Side baseball fans will look back fondly on these loss-heavy campaigns. But it's part of the process, as maddening as that might be to keep hearing.

Fortunately, there are examples of what the end of the tunnel looks like, and the White Sox are up against one of those examples this week. The Astros are dominating the competition so far this season, their young core of sluggers and a few overpowering starting pitchers fueling the best team in baseball. George Springer and Jose Altuve might have been out of the lineup Monday night, but Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman were still on display. And none of those guys were the ones to blast home runs halfway to Oklahoma off the White Sox on Rick Renteria's otherwise successful bullpen day. Peacock was traded a few times before landing in Houston, and Justin Verlander and Geritt Cole were trade acquisitions, as well. All of those guys have made the Astros a formidable force once again.

The White Sox are likely going to have to make a few outside acquisitions, too, before they can finally reach baseball's mountaintop. General manager Rick Hahn says that's the plan. But the homegrown portion of those rosters of the future could resemble what the Astros have put together in recent seasons. Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Nick Madrigal, Zack Collins. That's the planned core on the South Side. And Hahn has a number of young pitchers who could make up a fearsome rotation, too, in Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito. There are more names White Sox fans are familiar with who could play big roles, too.

That's a lot of talent, and while White Sox fans might remain skeptical until the wins start coming at an increased rate, the blueprint is there for those pieces to come together and create something special. The blueprint is what's across the field from the White Sox this week in Houston.

The Astros might cause some bad feelings for the White Sox and their fans over the next few nights. But if they look closely, they might catch a glimpse of the White Sox future if this rebuild goes where Hahn & Co. envision it going.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Eloy Jimenez returns to White Sox a little more than three weeks after spraining ankle

Eloy Jimenez returns to White Sox a little more than three weeks after spraining ankle

Things looked grim when Eloy Jimenez, the White Sox top-ranked prospect and a centerpiece of the South Side rebuilding plans, was down in pain on the warning track.

But a little more than three weeks later, Jimenez is back in the lineup, returned from his stay on the injured list for the start of a four-game series against the Houston Astros.

Jimenez made a leaping attempt to catch a home-run ball in the April 26 game against the Detroit Tigers. In the process, his foot got stuck in the padding of the left-field wall, and the 22-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain. He limped off the field and needed help getting into the dugout and clubhouse. Thoughts of "here we go again" flashed through a fan base that's watched top prospects suffer one significant injury after another in recent seasons.

The White Sox said Jimenez would be reevaluated in a couple weeks, while cursory Google searches revealed recovery times of more than a month for this type of injury.

But Jimenez seems to have healed quickly. He went on a minor league rehab assignment last week, playing in five games with Triple-A Charlotte before being deemed ready to return Monday.

This is phenomenal news for the White Sox and their fans, of course, who in the time Jimenez has been sidelined have seen another key piece go down with Carlos Rodon's Tommy John surgery. Jimenez hasn't got off to the rip-roaring start some predicted — he's slashed .241/.294/.380 with a trio of home runs in his first 21 major league games — but all playing time for the youngster is good playing time as he continues his development in his first big league season. Throw in Jimenez's four-game stay on the bereavement list prior to that game against Detroit, and he's had just one at-bat since April 21.

So maybe expect some rust, and manager Rick Renteria said Jimenez could perhaps be eased back with a game at DH here and there as he continues to work on improving his defense in left field.

Jimenez did go 7-for-22 (a .318 batting average) with a homer and a double in his rehab stint in Charlotte. Now he's back in the major league outfield, a good thing for everyone following along with this rebuild.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.