White Sox

White Sox rally, but comeback falls short in loss to Mariners

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White Sox rally, but comeback falls short in loss to Mariners

SEATTLE — The White Sox aren’t in a position where feel-good stories aid their cause.

Morale victories have little value to a team as desperately in need of wins as the White Sox are. So even though Adam LaRoche’s bat continues to warm up and the White Sox had a big mid-game rally, they didn’t have any warm and fuzzy feelings after an 8-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 30,537 at Safeco Field.

LaRoche homered and doubled and Jose Abreu also homered, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a big early deficit created by John Danks. Mariners relievers Carson Smith and Tom Wilhelmsen combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings to snap a three-game White Sox winning streak and prevent them from finishing their seven-game road trip with a winning record.

“Where we are we can’t afford to do that and the team put me in a good position today,” Danks said. “Everyone did their jobs exceptionally well today except me, and unfortunately I sucked bad enough that we weren’t able to get the win. We need to win more than three out of seven. Just being blunt, we don’t have that much season left to do that.”

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The White Sox have a significant hole to climb out of to if they wish to remain relevant in September. Sunday’s loss drops them back to six games below .500 and 5 1/2 games out in the wild-card race.

The Texas Rangers currently sit in second place in the wild-card race and are on pace to finish 84-78. To reach 84 wins, the White Sox would have to play .650 baseball over their final 40 games (26-14).

So far the White Sox haven’t proven to be that team, and there has been little evidence to suggest they’re capable of such a run. But one factor in the club’s favor is that they play teams with losing records in 24 of their final 40 contests, including seven at home this week against the Boston Red Sox and Mariners.

Though they opened it with three straight losses, the White Sox still had a chance to salvage a winning road trip with a victory Sunday.

Danks opened the game with two scoreless innings, but it quickly became evident in the third inning he wouldn’t be at his best. Mark Trumbo doubled to start the third, one of five Seattle hits in the inning. Jesus Sucre made it a 1-all game with a one-out RBI single, and Nelson Cruz later doubled in two runs. Franklin Gutierrez singled in another to make it 4-1, but Robinson Cano was thrown out at the third on the play to end the inning.

“He was elevating some balls, and they got some good swings on him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “In the third it seemed like his ball was up, and they put some good hacks on it and got something going.”

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Danks’ rough outing continued two innings later when Austin Jackson singled in a run and Cano crushed a two-run homer to put Seattle ahead by six runs.

Danks allowed eight hits and seven earned runs with three walks and four strikeouts in five-plus innings.

“Got in a lot of hitter’s counts and had to try and maneuver my way through and wasn’t very successful,” Danks said.

After a very difficult few months, LaRoche has started to find success through a combination of being more aggressive at the plate along with improved pitch selection.

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Three days after he had two hits, including a homer, LaRoche repeated his performance. He doubled ahead of an Alexei Ramirez RBI single in the second inning that gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead.

And his two-run homer in the sixth inning off Logan Kensing brought the White Sox back within a run. Tyler Saladino earlier doubled in a run, and Abreu had a two-run blast as the White Sox scored five times.

While LaRoche feels better about himself, he was left smarting after he struck out looking to start the ninth inning courtesy of what appeared to be a wide strike zone.

“Always nice to compete and make it a little bit closer ballgame,” LaRoche said. “Gave Johnny a chance to get off the hook but came up a little bit short.

“Last at-bat was a little frustrating.”

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

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USA TODAY

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

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USA TODAY

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.