White Sox

Mike Pelfrey lifted after five scoreless innings as White Sox end home stand with loss to Red Sox

Mike Pelfrey lifted after five scoreless innings as White Sox end home stand with loss to Red Sox

Mike Pelfrey was coming out of the game after five innings. Rick Renteria had determined that much hours earlier.

Even after the veteran right-hander held the visiting Boston Red Sox scoreless and to just two hits in five innings of work Wednesday night, Renteria was sticking to his game plan of lifting Pelfrey for a reliever.

Unfortunately, Anthony Swarzak surrendered four runs in the sixth inning, and the White Sox lost 4-1 to finish off a seven-game home stand at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He gave us a solid five innings of work,” Renteria said after the game. “Got into the game today with our game plan already set up. He was going to give us five, hold them there and then we were going to hand it over to the bullpen, basically. Unfortunately it didn't work out for us in that particular inning.”

It might not have mattered, really, as batters have done an awful lot of damage against Pelfrey when facing him for the third time in a game, entering Wednesday with a .556 batting average in the third plate appearance. That’s an insane jump compared to the .220 and .143 averages in the first and second plate appearances, respectively.

And you can’t blame anyone for having confidence in Swarzak, who had allowed just three runs on the season coming into this one. Eighteen of Swarzak’s first 19 appearances this year were scoreless ones, hence the lack of concern in handing him a 1-0 lead.

But the Red Sox did their damage, with back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth followed by an intentional walk to load the bases. Swarzak got the ground ball he wanted, but the White Sox couldn’t come up with an inning-ending double play. The tying run scored on that play, and the go-ahead run scored on Pablo Sandoval’s base hit. Christian Vazquez then smacked a double into the gap and boosted the lead to 4-1 with a pair of RBIs.

“I feel like I made some quality pitches, but at the same time I didn’t put guys away when I had the opportunity to,” Swarzak said. “I’m trying not to think about it too much, obviously. The results weren’t there. It’s extremely unfortunate because I really believe that if I throw up a zero right there, we’re going to go on to win that game 1-0. That wasn’t the case, some balls fell in and couldn’t put the ball past somebody when I really needed to. The result was four runs.”

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While hindsight often criticizes unfairly, you can’t help but wonder what might have been had Pelfrey stayed in the game.

It was just three starts ago against the Los Angeles Angels that Pelfrey couldn’t get out of the fifth and gave up four runs in that game. But Wednesday’s effort marked his third straight strong performance. His five scoreless innings Wednesday followed five innings of one-run ball against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday and six innings of one-run ball against the Seattle Mariners on May 20. Pelfrey has a 1.13 ERA and 15 strikeouts in his last three starts.

For the man himself, 12 years in the big leagues have taught him to listen to the man in the managerial chair.

“I just look at it, my job is to give it everything I have until you come take the ball,” Pelfrey said. “Obviously he’s the boss and he felt good about it. We’re on the same team, we’re trying to win games. And Swarzak’s been great all year. Had some bad luck there with some flares and stuff. I didn’t try to talk him out of it. I felt fine. But I guess he thought that was enough, and that was enough.

“When I was a lot younger, I definitely didn’t like coming out of the game and always had something to say. Maybe that’s a little selfish. I know that in Anaheim he left me in there, and it ended up costing us. I just go out there and give you whatever I have until you say enough’s enough and move on. I feel pretty good about that situation every time you hand the ball over to Swarzak, as good as he’s been. Unfortunately he just had some bad luck.”

Of course, the White Sox offense didn’t help any of its pitchers out Wednesday. After pushing across a run in the second inning against Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz, the White Sox couldn’t do much of anything against him the rest of the night. Pomeranz stranded seven runners in his seven innings of work as the White Sox bats fell completely silent after getting back-to-back singles to lead off the home half of the sixth. The final 12 hitters of the game were put down in order.

So while Renteria might have gotten some second-guessing for his pregame plan Wednesday, remember that the offense didn’t hold up its end of the expected bargain.

“I think all our pitchers, I'm hoping, will continue to extend their usage,” Renteria explained. “It also depends on the availability of our ‘pen. If you're able to shorten your ‘pen, you can't do it all the time because then you're using your ‘pen all the time. You have to be able to give those guys opportunities to go out there and eat up some innings.

“The caveat to that is on the offensive side we give them some room to be able to work and allow then to get back out there and give you another inning or two.”

Wednesday’s loss ended the White Sox once-promising home stand at a mere 4-3, a stretch that doesn’t look quite as good as it did ahead of Tuesday’s game, when the South Siders entered the matchup with former teammate Chris Sale at 4-1 on the stay.

But there are positives that are clear to see, the latest being Pelfrey’s string of solid performances.

"I feel good about where I'm at,” Pelfrey said. “I feel good about my off-speed pitches, I think they're probably better than they've ever been. But as I said, I've thrown a lot more than I ever have. I just want to get a little deeper into games and I've got to find a way to be a little more efficient to be able to do that. That's my next goal.”

MLB The Show: White Sox take down Blue Jays behind Dallas Keuchel

MLB The Show: White Sox take down Blue Jays behind Dallas Keuchel

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

Result: White Sox def. Blue Jays 7-1
Record: 51-36 this season, first in AL Central (3 games ahead of Twins)

W: Dallas Keuchel (5-5)
L: Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-4)

Game summary: The South Siders continued their three-game set vs the Blue Jays north of the border on Wednesday. And just like Canadian summers, their bats took a little longer than normal to warm up in this game.

Fortunately for the White Sox, they didn’t need a lot of runs early as Dallas Keuchel had his entire repertoire working. The veteran lefty, a frequent sore spot in the rotation this season, went eight innings while allowing just one run and striking out five batters. Sporting an ERA above 7 at times this year, Keuchel is now sitting at 5.90.

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After just scoring just two runs through the first seven frames, the White Sox offense broke out in the eighth. Tim Anderson emerged from his power slump in a big way, hitting a three-run bomb to left. Then, Nomar Mazara also went deep, slugging his 17th homer of the season.

The White Sox winning streak is now at three games, the same total they lead the AL Central by as All-Star weekend approaches.

White Sox lineup:

Edwin Encarnacion: 0-4 (.311 BA)
Eloy Jimenez: 1-4, 2B (.251 BA)
Yoan Moncada: 1-5, HR (23), RBI, R (.278 BA)
Yasmani Grandal: 1-3, 2 BB, R (.309 BA)
Jose Abreu: 3-5, 2 2B, 2 R (.311 BA)
Tim Anderson: 1-5, HR (15), 3 RBI, R (.275 BA)
Luis Robert: 1-5, R (.256 BA)
Nick Madrigal: 1-3 (.283 BA)
Nomar Mazara: 2-4, HR (17), 2 RBI, R (.257 BA)

Scoring summary:

Top first

Yoan Moncada homered to left field. 1-0 CHW.

Top fourth

Nomar Mazara singled to left field, Luis Robert scored. 2-0 CHW.

Bottom fifth

Bo Bichette homered to left field. 2-1 CHW.

Top eighth

Tim Anderson homered to left field, Yasmani Grandal and Jose Abreu scored. 5-1 CHW.
Mazara homered to right field. 6-1 CHW.

Top ninth

Anderson reached on throwing error, Abreu scored. 7-1 CHW.

Notable performance: Mazara is the human embodiment of the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Despite being in the nine-hole, Mazara has hit 16 homers and is ninh in the AL with 63 RBIs. There's no reason to move him elsewhere in the lineup.

Next game: Thursday, July 2 - Game 88: White Sox at Blue Jays (Dylan Cease, 4-4, 5.40 ERA vs Ryan Borucki, 6-4, 5.11 ERA)


Yoan Moncada: White Sox still on track for success in 2020, even after layoff

Yoan Moncada: White Sox still on track for success in 2020, even after layoff

It's been a bit of a deflating experience for White Sox fans over the past few months. They were ready for their team to finally ascend into the realm of baseball's contenders, only for the COVID-19 pandemic to put those plans on hold.

The most anticipated season of White Sox baseball in years wasn't happening.

Well, it's kind of happening now, albeit in a squeezed-down, 60-game version that has some fans already bemoaning the 2020 campaign's illegitimacy before it starts.

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But White Sox fans who had the wind taken out of their sails shouldn't be so down in the dumps. Even after a three-month layoff and staring at a two-month sprint to the postseason, the White Sox seem to be in as good a position as they were back in March to make their jump out of rebuilding mode and into contending mode.

Though so much has changed in baseball and around the world in the last few months, that one aspect of the White Sox outlook for the 2020 season has not, according to one of the team's best players.

"I think that each one of us has been working out, has been doing what they are supposed to be doing in order to get ready for the season," Yoan Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo on Wednesday. "If that's the case, and I truly believe that’s the case, we are going to be ready, when the season starts, to compete right away. I think there’s not going to be any major difference."

Indeed, there's reason to believe that the White Sox are positioned quite well to compete for an AL Central title and reach the postseason, much like there was back in March. The young core of Moncada, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Lucas Giolito were excellent in 2019, especially toward the end of the season. The front office added numerous impact veterans with winning experience during the offseason. And Luis Robert is a much-hyped prospect who could provide a huge boost to the lineup right away.

And the layoff has even allowed for some improvements to the roster, at least on paper, with a pitching staff deepened by the potential full-season additions of recovered arms Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon and Dane Dunning.

While the White Sox have their fair share of questions — look to that same pitching staff, where it's unknown what kind of results the team will get from Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez — they could wind up the most balanced of the three non-rebuilding teams in the Central. The defending-champion Minnesota Twins have a powerful lineup that now includes perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, but their pitching staff past ace Jose Berrios needs to prove its dependability. The Cleveland Indians, on the other hand, have arguably the best starting rotation in baseball, but their lineup is top heavy with major questions past Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez.

Moncada is of the mindset that to be the champs, you've got to beat the champs.

"I see ourselves in a very good position to compete in this division," he said. "I think that the team to beat is the Minnesota Twins. But I think we have a very good team to compete against them."

RELATED: White Sox not adjusting high hopes for 2020: 'I'm still extremely optimistic'

The third baseman doesn't seem to be alone in his thinking that the White Sox are still in a good position to reach the high expectations they put on themselves during the spring, when everyone at Camelback Ranch was talking about snapping the franchise's more than decade-long playoff drought. Team brass was sticking to those high hopes last week.

“I’m still extremely optimistic,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We come in with the same mindset, to build on what we were building when we were cut off in the spring. And I continue to be optimistic about how positively we can roll forward.”

Obviously this is a season unlike any other, and no one truly knows what will happen when the games start being played — including how many of those games the COVID-19 pandemic will allow Major League Baseball to complete. A fast start will be important to the White Sox and every other team looking to sprint to the regular season's finish line.

Some more good news, at least for Moncada? This is a season in which he doesn't have to worry about battling Chicago's frigid April and May conditions.

"I don't like cold weather," he said. "I think starting the season in this kind of weather is going to be an advantage for all of us. I think we're going to feel much more comfortable, and for me, I think I'm going to feel like I'm playing in Cuba because this is the kind of weather we're used to in Cuba. It's going to be comfortable for us."

White Sox fans have reason to believe they could be very comfortable with their team's fortunes, even after a three-month layoff.