White Sox

Kyle Lobstein limits White Sox as Tigers avoid sweep


Kyle Lobstein limits White Sox as Tigers avoid sweep

Alexei Ramirez bore the frustration of another trying day for the White Sox offense on Thursday afternoon.

He grounded into a key double play that helped Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Kyle Lobstein escape his only real trouble spot. Lobstein limited the aggressive White Sox chances and the Tigers provided timely hitting of their own to avoid their first sweep at the hands of the White Sox since 2008 with a 4-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

Lobstein pitched 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball as he and closer Joakim Soria combined on a five-hitter. Jose Quintana took the loss after he allowed two runs in five innings with eight strikeouts.

“I feel a little bit frustrated because I wasn’t able to help the team,” Ramirez said through an interpreter after going 1-for-3. “It’s frustrating because this is baseball and it’s all about the win.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Micah Johnson beginning to settle in with White Sox]

After a workmanlike performance, Quintana appeared as if he might be headed for a victory when the White Sox rallied for a run in the bottom of the fourth. Taking advantage of an Ian Kinsler error, the White Sox got consecutive singles from Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia — who had the game-winner on Wednesday — to tie the game. Adam LaRoche then drew a seven-pitch walk against Lobstein to load the bases with nobody out.

But Alexei Ramirez swung at the first pitch — an 88-mph fastball — and hit a hard grounder that Nick Castellanos fielded before he stepped on third and fired home in time to tag Abreu out. Gordon Beckham followed with another hard grounder, but Miguel Cabrera corralled it to end the inning.

“Alexei hits it hard and it's just right at somebody,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That's the way the game goes sometimes. You'd like it a little more up the middle and get something more out of that, but we had some opportunities off him in that inning. Other than that, Lobstein was good. He really had everybody off balance, he was getting ahead early and working both sides of the plate.”

The fourth inning was the only real threat the White Sox could muster. They only got one other leadoff man aboard on Micah Johnson’s eighth-inning single and he was immediately erased when Adam Eaton grounded into a double play. Lobstein recorded 13 of 20 outs on ground balls, limiting his opponents to five hits and two walks. His only run allowed was unearned.

“We hit a number of them hard, we just didn’t find a lot of holes with them and timely hits didn’t happen,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “ That’s kind of how it goes sometimes.”

So far this season the low-scoring offense has been a dominant theme.

While the White Sox scored 12 runs the previous two games, both victories, this was the 15th time in 25 contests they have scored three runs or fewer. They are 1-14 in those games.

Yet another poor showing with the bats led Quintana to a second straight hard-luck loss. He needed 69 pitches to get through the first three innings as he carefully navigated around the middle of the Tigers lineup.

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Quintana allowed a first-inning run on a wild pitch with two outs before stranding two with a strikeout of J.D. Martinez. He also needed 10 pitches to retire Yoenis Cespedes with two in scoring position and two outs to end the third.

Quintana nearly got out of trouble in the fifth inning but Beckham couldn’t glove a Miguel Cabrera grounder and had to settle for the out at first instead of a double play, which allowed the go-ahead run to score.

Quintana allowed four hits and walked two, throwing strikes on 71 of 107 pitches. The Tigers tacked on two more runs in the eighth inning off Dan Jennings, who allowed his first runs since Opening Day.

The White Sox knew coming in some of their hitters are slow starters, namely Ramirez and LaRoche, who has begun to come around. Ramirez has hit the ball hard the past few games but still isn’t there, carrying a .202/.240/.281 slash line with no homers and 9 RBIs. He said the key is to stay focused on the present and not worry about the past — that they can’t give up on that theory, no matter how frustrated they are.

“We have to keep the faith and the confidence that we are getting better sooner rather than later,” Ramirez said. “We have to keep doing that until we get the results we want and the consistency we want.”

Eloy Jimenez willing to play baseball in empty stadiums: 'I just want to play'

Eloy Jimenez willing to play baseball in empty stadiums: 'I just want to play'

Playing Major League Baseball in empty stadiums feels wrong. And the thought of Eloy Jimenez playing in empty stadiums is even worse.

"I don't know. For me, playing with fans is motivating. That's why I want to play every single day hard for them and I enjoy talking to them,” Jimenez said Tuesday. “I don't know what it's going to be (like) to play without fans there.”

But it might be necessary. The ESPN report that emerged late Monday night detailed the possibility of MLB starting its season with all 30 teams in Arizona, playing in spring training stadiums and Chase Field. Teams would essentially be quarantined -- existing only in their hotels, team buses and stadiums. There would be no fans in the stands and players would not be able to stay with their families.

It seems crazy, but nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic is normal. Baseball has always been something that unites us, and frankly, any kind of baseball sounds good right now. Credit to Major League Baseball for getting creative with a possible return. If they can keep the players safe and the MLBPA is willing to play under those circumstances, then it’s worth a try.

“We're all used to playing those back-field games, chain-link fence league games,” White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said last week. “We've done it coming up through the minor leagues. We even do it in spring training, at times. I don't think it has too much an effect. If things matter, if games matter, I think we'd be able to go and get it done with or without fans in the stadium. But I'd definitely prefer to have fans. We'll see what we'll be able to make happen."

Major League Baseball issued a statement Tuesday morning neither confirming or denying the idea of playing the season in Arizona. That’s because it’s just an idea, albeit a serious one. Serious enough that players must think about if they’re willing to do it.

"It's going to be hard because you're going to be away from your family,” Jimenez said. “100 degrees is really hot. But if that's the plan, I'm going to do it. I just want to play."

The weather is certainly a factor. Chase Field has a roof and could hold multiple games per day, but anything outdoors would have to be played at night. Even then, it will be plenty hot in the desert in the evening.

Every idea comes with a plethora of questions and there are few concrete answers in an unprecedented situation. Players will still be together in clubhouses. What happens if just one player tests positive? Will there be enough tests that MLB isn’t taking them away from people who need them more? And even if this is all possible, how long would players realistically need to get ready for the season? Jimenez said his workouts at home have been limited to “just doing a couple pushups, jump rope and hitting in the back of the yard. That's pretty much it.”

“Honestly, how long is spring training, a month and a half? Maybe (we’ll need) a month, couple weeks,” White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said last week. “Around the same time period. Let’s be realistic with pitchers’ arms. Being realistic about the situation, not forcing anything. When we’re ready to go I think they’ll make a good decision, they’ll take care of us, I think we’ll be just fine.”

A big reason why players likely would be willing to sequester themselves in Arizona – and away from their families – is because their salaries will be prorated based on how many games get played. Owners would lose out on gate revenue, but there is plenty to gain for baseball by putting real games on television, especially if it’s the only sport going.

“I just want to play baseball,” Jimenez said. “If they decide to play here (in Arizona), I'm going to enjoy it, but we want to play (a) normal regular season, like travel and all that. And play for our city, you know?”

The feeling is mutual. Of course everyone would prefer to see Eloy Jimenez playing in Chicago. But if it’s on television from Arizona, we’re still going to enjoy it. 

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Paul Konerko's lengthy season-opening slump


White Sox 2005 Rewind: Paul Konerko's lengthy season-opening slump

It might be easy to forget.

For a guy who hit a grand slam in the World Series, hit 41 home runs during the regular season and is well remembered as not only the best player on that championship team but one of the two best hitters in franchise history, Paul Konerko had a painfully slow start to the 2005 season.

#SoxRewind has rolled into mid May of that year, and Konerko is still slumping on our screens.

Obviously things turned out just fine for him, but it took Konerko a while to get into his typical swing of things in 2005. Through his first 40 games of the season, he owned a .196/.329/.420 slash line.

There were bright spots, sure, and he still had nine homers in those 40 games, right on pace for the 40 he ended up with. He had a two-homer, five-RBI game against the Blue Jays on May 7. At the end of that road trip, May 11 against the Devil Rays, he drove in a couple more with a big double.

But even those proved to be just glimpses rather than breakout performances.

What did keep Konerko afloat during that slow beginning was his ability to draw walks. He jacked his on-base percentage up to .370 by season’s end, but even at .329 during those first 40 games, he was doing a good job getting on base despite a batting average south of the Mendoza Line. Konerko walked 25 times in his first 40 games, with four multi-walk games. That included a pair of three-walk games during this stretch in May.

The tide finally turned May 18, a three-hit, three-run game against the Rangers. From that point on, over his final 118 games, he slashed .311/.390/.570. In other words, MVP-type production.

The White Sox needed their best hitter over the course of the 2005 regular season, the playoff push and the postseason. And there’s a statue at Guaranteed Rate Field that can inform you how important he was to that group.

But it wasn’t wire-to-wire success for Konerko. Thankfully for the White Sox, his teammates picked him up, finding other ways to win during the season's first month and a half. And it shows just how good he was after things finally got back to normal.

What else?

— The White Sox sure should have won this game by a lot more than they did. They started the third inning with back-to-back walks and a classic Tropicana Field catwalk single off the bat of Tadahito Iguchi. Bases loaded, nobody out. But after Aaron Rowand drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Timo Perez got picked off trying to steal third base and Konerko struck out to end the inning. Three innings later, the White Sox started with three straight singles, including a bunt hit by Juan Uirbe to load the bases. But the next three hitters went strikeout, pop out, strikeout to go scoreless in the frame. A 5-2 win didn’t necessarily need any more runs, but it could’ve been 10-2 easily.

— Pablo Ozuna made things happen. With one out in the top of the fifth, he reached base on an infield single, busting down the line and ducking out of the way of a tag attempt at first base. He moved to second base on a one-out walk and to third on a fly out. Then he raced home on a wild pitch to break a 1-all tie. That was the first run in a four-run inning for the White Sox. Making things happen, the Ozuna way.

— Iguchi stole two bases in this game, the only multi-steal game of his big league career. Iguchi stole a career-high 15 bases in 2005, part of the 137 bags the White Sox swiped as a team that season. That number ranked fourth in the majors, behind the Angels, the Mets and these Devil Rays. Iguchi ranked third on the White Sox behind Scott Podsednik’s 59 steals and the 16 of Rowand.

— It was Robin Ventura on the call alongside Darrin Jackson as Hawk Harrelson continued to recover from his eye surgery. The all-time White Sox great became the team’s 39th manager less than seven years later, taking over after the tenure of Ozzie Guillen, who was in his second season as the South Side skipper in 2005.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 9, 2005: Despite getting to Hideo Nomo early, the White Sox had their eight-game winning streak snapped when the Devil Rays battled back against Freddy Garcia. White Sox lose, 4-2, fall to 24-8.

May 10, 2005: The White Sox had leads of 4-1 and 6-4 but blew them both. Future White Sox catcher Toby Hall hit a three-run game-tying homer off Jose Contreras at one point. But Jorge Cantu’s walk-off homer off Shingo Takatsu in the bottom of the ninth assured the Devil Rays a series win. White Sox lose, 7-6, fall to 24-9.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Wednesday, when you can catch the May 13, 2005, game against the Orioles, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Mark Buehrle goes eight innings, and Konerko leads a come-from-behind win against the O’s.

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