BALTIMORE — Down at Triple-A Charlotte, opposing pitchers can’t seem to stop the Yoansanity.
Top prospect Yoan Moncada continued his reign of terror as he finished a triple shy of the cycle and reached base four times.
Meanwhile, the major league White Sox offense sputtered against a pitcher that Charlotte rocked only five days earlier. Combined with a few defensive misplays and another day of bad fortune for Jose Quintana, the White Sox dropped a 4-0 decision to the Baltimore Orioles in front of 31,806 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Chris Tillman pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and went on to combine with two relievers on an eight-hit shutout to close out a three-game sweep of the White Sox. Manager Rick Renteria was ejected in the third inning, the first of his White Sox career.
“The first inning started off very well getting guys on with a couple of bases on balls and still ended up loading the bases with one out, weren’t able to drive a run across,” Renteria said. “He was probably able to take a deep breath getting through it.
“It gives you a little boost. I don’t think by the same token we were too focused on that it was just the rest of the time continuing to see if we could get anything started at that point and we weren’t able to do so.”
Looking to avoid a third straight loss and a losing road trip, the White Sox had Tillman in trouble almost immediately. Tillman was making his Orioles season debut and was only five days removed from allowing three home runs against Charlotte.
The right-hander opened the game with seven straight balls and walked the first two men he faced. But Tillman got Jose Abreu to pop out on a 3-2 pitch in and then wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam. Todd Frazier lined out to shortstop and Cody Asche grounded out to first base to strand the bases loaded.
That gave the Orioles an opening and they pounced on it. Quintana issued a pair of one-out walks in the first inning and Tyler Saladino double-clutched on Chris Davis’ infield grounder, which caused his throw to first to be just late. Chris Davis followed with a sac fly to put Baltimore ahead and Trey Mancini singled in a run to make it 2-0.
A pair of bloop singles in the second inning by Joey Rickard and Adam Jones kicked an Orioles’ rally into gear with the latter driving in a run. Manny Machado’s RBI single to left made it a 4-0 contest and effectively wiped out the chance of the White Sox avoiding a sweep.
Quintana allowed four earned runs and nine hits in five innings, walked three and struck out four.
“It was a battle the whole game,” Quintana said. “It was a tough day for me today.
“It was the first bad series we had. It was straight three games, but we have to turn to the page and keep doing what we were doing before. We were playing good, so we have to keep going. Everybody knows that. Turn the page and get ready for the next series.”
The White Sox offense never quite rebounded from their first-inning failure.
They mounted only two other threat all afternoon. Tillman got Melky Cabrera to ground out to second base to strand a pair and end a fourth-inning rally. Brad Brach wiped out the other opportunity with a game-ending double play off Leury Garcia’s bat.
The White Sox finished 0-for-7 with 11 runners left in scoring position.
Down on the farm, Moncada continued a 15-game tear with three more hits and a walk in a Charlotte victory. Over the span, Moncada is hitting .400/.464/.617 with 16 runs scored, three homers and seven RBIs in 69 plate appearances.
The top-rated prospect in baseball has also made two key improvements as the season has progressed. Not only has he begun to lower his strikeout rate — 21.7 percent since April 20 — but Moncada’s play has improved in the field. By playing more aggressively in the field, Moncada has tapped into his tools, which has resulted in fewer mistakes and better turns of double plays. Earlier in the week, he drew rave reviews from general manager Rick Hahn, who spent part of the week observing the Knights.
“Had a chance to visit with all of (Charlotte’s coaches) and they were very impressed with Yoan and the progress he’s made,” Hahn said. “There were a couple things that Super Joe (McEwing) and (Renteria) were working on with him defense in spring training and mark and Vance (Law) and the staff down here picked up where they left off. And Yoan continues to improve in that regards. We’re real pleased with where he’s at. The fact is he does remain a 22-year old that coming into the year had fewer than 200 plate appearances above A-ball. His development is by no means complete at the minor league level, but he certainly is making a great deal of progress and we’re thrilled with where he’s at.”
If Moncada continues to perform at the same level, he could force the White Sox into changing his locale. The threshold to keep Moncada under team control for a seventh year is only a week away.
One of Hahn’s favorite sayings regarding prospects is that the best ones tend to force their way into the majors. If Moncada can continue to reduce his strikeout-rate, play sharp defense and be an overall force on offense, he could find his way to Chicago soon enough.