Where would the White Sox have been without Leury Garcia on Friday night?
Aside from the first two-home run game of the utility man’s career, the White Sox offense was otherwise nonexistent again. Garcia homered twice but it wasn’t enough to prevent a sixth straight White Sox loss as they fell to the San Diego Padres 6-3 in front of 24,194 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Garcia reached base in all four plate appearances for the White Sox, who dropped to 15-18.
“We’ve been struggling the last couple of games,” Garcia said. “We keep battling. We keep playing hard and we know that they are going to turn it around.”
That the White Sox offense was led by a hitter who entered the 2017 season with a .462 career OPS instead of one of its big veteran hitters says plenty about the current state of the unit.
Not to take anything away from Garcia. He’s been outstanding through the first fifth of the season.
Playing more than ever, Garcia has excelled in part because of a drastic reduction in his strikeout rate. From 2013 to 2016, Garcia struck out in 33.1 percent of his plate appearances (102 of 308). This season, he has whiffed 13 times in 99 trips to the plate — a 20 percent drop.
After he went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and was hit by a pitch on Friday, Garcia is hitting .304/.343/.489.
He provided the White Sox with a jolt of energy in the third inning, ripping a two-run homer off Jhoulys Chacin to get them within 3-2. Garcia’s seventh-inning solo shot also kept the White Sox within two runs (5-3) and knocked Chacin out of the game.
But the White Sox were otherwise unimpressive yet again.
The team’s bats have collectively gone cold after a torrid stretch that ran from late April into early May. The White Sox looked outstanding over that 11 games as they produced 65 runs during the stretch. But over the other 22 games they have played, the White Sox have scored 67 runs.
Friday’s performance was the 18th time in 33 games that they’ve scored three or fewer runs in a contest.
A huge factor hindering the White Sox season is they simply haven’t had many chances to score runs. The team’s .297 on-base percentage ranks 27th in the majors. And while it isn’t the bottom of the barrel — the Kansas City Royals’ OBP is .280 — the lack of chances isn’t helping, either.
Done in by Chacin — who allowed seven hits and three runs with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings — and four relievers, the White Sox dropped to 3-15 in contests in which they score three or fewer runs.
“I just tell them tomorrow is another day,” said manager Rick Renteria, who met with his coaches for 20 minutes after Friday’s loss. “Things that you might identify as being an issue you might just try to clean it up a little bit and try to find the solution. It’s the only way you can do it is if you hit it straight on and you talk about it and hopefully we’ll continue to kind of chip away at some of things we need to correct and we’ll move forward.
“I thought Chacin did a nice job.”
Miguel Gonzalez wasn’t as effective.
He walked four batters, including two in the first inning. Matt Szczur ripped Gonzalez’s first pitch of the night for a solo home run and Gonzalez never really recovered.
Austin Hedges’ two-out double in the third inning put the Padres ahead 3-0. Hedges hit a solo homer in the fourth in the fifth inning to give San Diego a 4-2 lead and Allen Cordoba singled in another run.
Gonzalez gave up five earned runs and eight hits in five innings and walked four.
“I was just off,” Gonzalez said. “Just felt tight. Wasn’t as loose as other times when I was out there. Just thinking too much in between pitches. Next time go out there and have fun. That’s what it’s all about. Today I was just thinking a little too much on the mound and that’s what happens. You fall behind hitters and they capitalize when you make bad pitches. And that’s what it was, I was just one pitch away from a quality start and it just didn't happen.”