White Sox

Leury Garcia homers twice, but White Sox fall to Padres

Leury Garcia homers twice, but White Sox fall to Padres

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.”

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season


It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future


Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.