White Sox

White Sox offense struggles in front of Quintana in shutout loss to Twins

White Sox offense struggles in front of Quintana in shutout loss to Twins

The White Sox haven’t had many big hits in their last dozen games.

The White Sox never seem to deliver any timely knocks in Jose Quintana starts.

Those two forces collided in a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night in front of 22,072 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Quintana allowed two Brian Dozier home runs, including a decisive three-run shot in the sixth inning, and dropped a seventh straight decision. His offense finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position as Kyle Gibson twirled seven scoreless innings.

Outfielder Melky Cabrera also left the game early with a sore left wrist.

“We didn’t do nothing as hitters,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “We have to find a way. We had an off day. Everybody was nice and relaxed coming back. We’re professionals here as hitters. We have to find ways to get guys in.”

The White Sox didn’t have many shots against Gibson.

They butchered those that they did.

No opportunity was bigger than the third inning, which began with singles by J.B. Shuck and Tim Anderson in front of the team’s 2-3-4 hitters. But Gibson delivered and the White Sox failed yet again.

Down 1-0, Adam Eaton couldn’t move the runners over as he flew out to center. Jose Abreu followed suit and flew out to center before Cabrera — who left in the top of the seventh and is listed as day-to-day — popped out to second.

One inning earlier, Brett Lawrie was stranded in scoring position when Gibson got Avisail Garcia to chase a two-strike pitch off the plate and in the dirt. It was more of the same in the fifth when Eaton flew out to center with a man on second. And again in the seventh when Shuck flew out and Anderson grounded into a fielder’s choice with two aboard.

“It started out well,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You get them on there. Any time we seemed to get something going against Gibson, he just really started going soft and using your aggressiveness against you. I think that's part of what played into it. He had a very good changeup, he used his curve when he had to. He went a little bit backwards. Any time we got into an aggressive count, he just took a little off. We couldn't get anything going against him.”

The team’s effort was the continuance of a nasty trend.

The White Sox are 12-for-98 (.122) with runners in scoring position in their last 12 games. The lengthy slump dropped them from hitting a formidable .260 with RISP, which ranked in the top half of the league, to below .240, which ranks in the bottom third.

That the performance arrived with Quintana on the mound should come as no surprise.

Whereas the White Sox scored 25 runs in Quintana’s first seven starts, they’ve relapsed into their old non-scoring selves whenever he takes the hill. Over his last nine starts, Quintana has had nine runs of support.

The left-hander said the lack of support isn’t something he focuses on because it’s out of his hands.

“I don’t have control on the runs,” Quintana said. “I say the same every time. But I don’t have control, man. I try to keep going. I try to be better next time and keep going. Next time be better out there, better outing and better everything.

“I never think about that. I just try to pay attention and do my job, focusing on throwing the ball well and that’s it.”

Quintana made two mistakes in seven otherwise solid innings.

Dozier’s solo homer to leadoff the second inning gave the Twins, who improved to 25-51, a one-run lead.

Eduardo Nunez then led off the sixth inning with a single and stole second base. He advanced to third on a passed ball. Quintana then walked Joe Mauer and Dozier made him pay when he got enough of a 2-1 curveball low and in to drive it out for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.

Quintana — who is 5-8 despite a 3.18 ERA — allowed six hits, walked one and struck out eight.

“I’m sure inside he’s frustrated,” Frazier said. “I would be too. He’s a competitor, gives it his all. One bad pitch.”

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

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AP

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

It wasn’t long ago that the question was: “Why isn’t Michael Kopech pitching in the major leagues?”

The question is now firmly: “What’s wrong with Michael Kopech?”

The new script is of course a reflection of how quickly opinions change during a baseball season, when “what have you done for me lately?” tends to drive the conversation more than looking at the entire body of work.

But the body of work doesn’t look too awesome for the White Sox top-ranked pitching prospect these days. He carries a 5.08 ERA through 14 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. But it’s the recent struggles that have folks second guessing whether he’s ready for the big leagues.

The month of June hasn’t gone well for Kopech, who has a 9.00 ERA in four starts this month. That features two especially ugly outings, when he allowed seven runs in two innings and five runs in three outings. But for a guy who’s got blow-em-away stuff, it’s the walks that are of the utmost concern to box-score readers: He’s got 21 of them in 16 innings over his last four starts. That’s compared to 20 strikeouts.

More walks than strikeouts is never a good thing, and it’s been a glaring bugaboo for White Sox pitchers at the major league level all season. Kopech wasn’t having that problem when this season started out. He struck out 68 batters and walked only 25 over his first 10 starts. But things have changed.

With director of player development Chris Getz on the horn Thursday to talk about all of the promotions throughout the minor league system, he was asked about Kopech and pointed to Wednesday’s outing, which lasted only five innings and featured four more walks. But Kopech only allowed two earned runs, and Getz called it a good outing.

“Last night I was really happy with what he was able to do, and that’s really in comparison looking at his last probably four outings or so,” Getz said. “He did have a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with his upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.

“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing. He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches, a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing. I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at from last night and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

It’s important to note, of course, that the White Sox are often looking for things that can’t be read in a box score. So when we see a lot of walks or a lot of hits or a small amount of strikeouts, that doesn’t tell the whole story nor does it count as everything the decision makers in the organization are looking at.

Still, this is development and growth in action — and perhaps a sign that the White Sox have been right in not yet deeming Kopech ready for the majors. Kopech perhaps needs the time at Triple-A to work through these issues rather than be thrown into a big league fire.

As for how these struggles will affect his timeline, that remains to be seen. The White Sox aren’t ruling anything out, not promising that he’ll be on the South Side before the end of this season but certainly not ruling it out either.

“If he builds off of what he did last night, commanding his fastball, his breaking pitches continue to kind of define themselves, I think we’ve got a chance to see him,” Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter. I’m very confident in that.

“Now just like a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path. And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point.”

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Rick Hahn’s been saying it all year: The good ones have a way of forcing the issue.

Consider Dylan Cease one of the good ones.

The pitcher acquired alongside top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs was one of the more than a dozen players promoted within the White Sox farm system Thursday. He put up stellar numbers during the first half with Class A Winston-Salem and because of it is on his way to Double-A Birmingham.

While many rebuild-loving fans could’ve forecasted Jimenez’s rapid journey through the organization, Cease’s acceleration is one that even the White Sox are considering a “pleasant surprise.”

“There’s definitely been some pleasant surprises,” Chris Getz, the White Sox director of player development, said Thursday. “For one, I think Dylan Cease was a guy, heading into the season, his first full year with us, the focus was: every fifth day, a full season’s worth of innings. He’s more or less forced our hand.

“He's really come on, he’s pitching with four pitches, four plus pitches, he’s commanding the ball, very mature kid. And he’s certainly ready for the next challenge at Double-A.”

Cease turned in a 2.89 ERA in his 13 starts with Winston-Salem, striking out 82 batters in 71.2 innings. Considering he made just 25 starts above Rookie ball during his time in the Cubs’ organization, the dominance in his first taste of High A is quite the positive for the White Sox.

The team’s starting rotation of the future is a mighty crowded one, with roughly a dozen different guys competing for those spots: current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito; Triple-A arms Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams; Double-A hurlers Cease, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning; and Class A pitchers Lincoln Henzman and Blake Battenfield, both of whom earned their own promotions Thursday.

There’s a lot of time before the White Sox have to settle on which five will make up that future starting staff. But Cease could be doing the work of making a name for himself, something that hasn’t been easy to do. With all the love he’s getting, he’s still the organization’s fourth-ranked pitching prospect. Heck, thanks to Jimenez, he wasn’t the top-ranked guy in his own trade.

But Cease is getting attention now, and if he keeps pitching like this, he could keep forcing the White Sox hand.