ANAHEIM, Calif. — Rick Renteria didn’t shy away from the blame for Monday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
The White Sox manager could see that his starting pitcher, Mike Pelfrey, had begun to wear down in the fifth inning. Ahead by three runs, Renteria had the pieces in place to make a move to try and keep his team in the lead. But instead of listening to his instincts, Renteria went with his heart and stayed with Pelfrey.
Six pitches later, the lead had vanished. Fifth-inning home runs by Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout off Pelfrey gave the Angels everything they needed to send the White Sox to a 5-3 loss in front of 29,445 at Angel Stadium. The White Sox, who opened a 10-game road trip at Anaheim, have lost seven of their last nine games.
“I thought Pelf gave us a nice four-plus innings,” Renteria said. “Really, he gave us enough to do what we needed to do. I had those guys out there ready to pick him up, and I didn’t. I went against my better judgment. We had (Dan Jennings) ready for Calhoun, and we had our righty ready. So that’s not any of their faults but mine. At least it would have given us a better chance. I couldn’t guarantee that the outcome would have been what we wanted, but I think the matchups would have been better, and pretty much that’s it.”
Most of Pelfrey’s starts have gone exactly the same way. He looks outstanding through his first three or four innings before he struggles in the middle. Pelfrey entered Monday’s start with a .200 average against in his first two trips the lineup (13-for-65).
Pelfrey followed that format to a T on Monday as he retired the side in order in the first, third and fourth innings. He allowed a pair of runners with one out in the second inning but pitched out of the jam.
Pelfrey’s strong start allowed the White Sox a chance to get ahead by three runs. Jose Abreu blasted a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and Tyler Saladino tripled in a run in the fifth.
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But Pelfrey couldn’t sustain. He said a series of full counts earlier in the game (Pelfrey threw 74 pitches through four innings) finally caught up to him in the fifth. Pelfrey issued one-out walks to Cam Maybin and Danny Espinosa. Martin Maldonado followed with a deep drive to left, but Melky Cabrera tracked it down for the second out.
With Jennings warm in the bullpen, Renteria opted to leave Pelfrey in to face Calhoun, who was 0-for-2. Calhoun ripped a 1-0 fastball out to right for a game-tying, three-run shot. Four pitches later, Trout hammered a 1-2 changeup to put Los Angeles ahead.
Batters facing Pelfrey the third time through the lineup are now 9-for-12 this season.
“You want to get that guy through it,” Renteria said. “All season long we've done the opposite, not worried about the individual, more worried about the team. Bottom line today is I went against the team concept and did something for the player. And it bit us in the butt. These guys have been playing very, very hard. There is no way to clean that up, no way to make an excuse. None whatsoever. Everybody should be extremely upset. I'm upset. Tomorrow is another day.”
Pelfrey wasn’t pleased with himself, either.
He took no solace in the fact he kept the Angels in check for four innings. He exited after the Trout homer having allowed four earned runs, three hits and walking three in 4.2 innings.
Neither Pelfrey nor rookie Dylan Covey has completed six innings in a start this season. It’s one reason the White Sox promoted reliever Gregory Infante on Monday, to help with the workload. Infante pitched a scoreless inning and struck out one. The team could carry an eight-man bullpen into the foreseeable future, Renteria said.
“Pretty frustrated,” Pelfrey said. “Pretty disappointed. Pretty tough to swallow after getting the 3-0 lead and giving it right back. It sucks. It sucks.
“I thought I was 3-2 on everybody and a lot of pitches and killed the bullpen again, which sucks. You can’t get deep in the game when you’re 3-2 on everybody. Pitches rack up pretty fast. Pretty crappy all the way and disappointing. I really don’t know what to say.”