White Sox

In thus-far winless homestand, we're seeing the growing pains of the White Sox rebuild

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AP

In thus-far winless homestand, we're seeing the growing pains of the White Sox rebuild

Just because the calendar turned from Year 1 to Year 2 in the White Sox rebuilding process doesn’t mean that the rebuild is over quite yet.

The hardest part of the rebuild, general manager Rick Hahn said this offseason, might be the current part. After his front office stocked the farm system with an incredible amount of young talent, now it’s time to play the waiting game as all those highly touted prospects continue to cook in the minor leagues.

But the waiting game is played at the same time as the real-life baseball games, and over the last five games at the major league level, South Side baseball fans have been witness to baseball that even eternal optimist Rick Renteria will readily admit isn’t the best around.

“We certainly haven’t played, in general, the best five games we’ve had in our time here,” Renteria said Tuesday.

Yes, this homestand, the first of the 2018 campaign, has been an ugly one so far. The White Sox have dropped the first five games played at Guaranteed Rate Field this season and have done so with an offense that has been almost entirely unable to come up with a big hit in a big moment, a bullpen that’s turned in a couple nasty outings and a starting pitching staff that is issuing a heck of a lot of walks.

It’s hard to say Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays encapsulated the struggles, considering all these games have been aesthetically displeasing. But just one run through the first eight innings, just one hit through the first four-plus innings, a 1-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position (Jose Abreu’s three-run homer in the ninth) and nine runners left on base sufficiently sums up the offensive struggles.

Carson Fulmer, meanwhile, issued six walks in his 4.2 innings, also hitting two batters, throwing a wild pitch and getting charged with a balk. Hector Santiago issued two walks out of the bullpen, and Gregory Infante gave up three hits and walked two while facing only seven batters. His season ERA is 16.62.

All of this, of course, is not entirely surprising. The White Sox were a 95-loss team a season ago and figured once again to be out of contention early given their rebuilding status. These growing pains, these bumps in the road are no surprise while the organization waits for the wave of minor league talent to wash up on the South Side.

But at the same time, you can excuse fans’ irritation. After all, this homestand has pitted the White Sox against the Rays and the Detroit Tigers before them, two teams expected to finish at or near the bottom of their respective division standings.

Added up, the numbers are frightening. In five home games this season, the White Sox are 7-for-50 with runners in scoring position. They’ve left 45 runners on base. White Sox pitchers — after walking a ridiculous 10 hitters Tuesday — have given out 28 free passes.

“Any young major league team, any veteran major league team understands it, learns it, continues to live through it. We’re no different than anybody else,” Renteria said. “We haven’t had the outcomes we’ve wanted over the last five games, but I assure you that there’s no confidence being lost. There will be more conversations about our focus, making sure we’re taking care of little things. There are still things we’re cleaning up so we are a quality major league baseball team on a day in and day out basis.”

There are silver linings to be had. Ricky’s boys didn’t quit Tuesday, staging a ninth-inning rally against the Rays’ bullpen that produced four runs. Matt Davidson continues to get on base and walked three times Tuesday to bring his season total to nine. Tim Anderson stole third base in that ninth inning, raising his swiped-bags total to six.

But the White Sox have still mustered just 11 runs in their last 40 innings.

There’s a long way to go in this rebuilding season, and there will be more stretches like this one. But the win-loss total is independent of the development of players like Davidson and Anderson at the major league level and all those prospects down in the minors. The win-loss total is independent of the way Hahn’s front office wants to see Renteria get his players to play. The win-loss total is independent of when Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez might arrive in the big leagues.

It’s been an ugly five days. But when the rebuild reaches its apex and the White Sox contention window opens, these five days will just go down as growing pains.

“I’ll tell right now for anybody who’s watching, if anybody believes I’m going to doubt or knock my team in any way, shape or form, that’s not going to happen,” Renteria said. “This is a very positive group of men who are learning how to play this game. And even a veteran club continues to learn to play baseball.

“This is five days of which I wish we’d been able to give the fans a lot of victories over these last five days. We haven’t. It’s not for a lack of effort. These guys continue to play, they continue to work, they continue to study, they continue to do the things that are necessary to continue to help them to potentially put them in a position to have the successes that we are gong to need and to become the organization that we want, which is a winning organization.”

White Sox vs. Red Sox simulation on MLB The Show 20 (Game 9)

White Sox vs. Red Sox simulation on MLB The Show 20 (Game 9)

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.

After two straight games of baseball bashing, it seemed like White Sox bats were finally going to have a quiet day in the final matchup of a three-game set vs. the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The South Siders managed only one run through the first seven innings of play, an RBI single by Jose Abreu in the third.

Meanwhile, Reynaldo Lopez, looking to build off his five innings of one-run ball last time out, ran into trouble in the fifth. The Dominican hurler gave up a three-run homer to Christian Vazquez, who already has 12 RBI (T-2nd in the AL) on the young season.

With the White Sox trailing 4-1 in the eighth, it looked like the brooms would have to be kept in the closet for another day. That all changed with two swings of the bat. First, Eloy Jimenez hit a three-run blast that hugged the left field line and just cleared the Green Monster to tie the game 4-4.

Then, Nomar Mazara hit a game-winning no-doubter 447 feet to right field, his first home run of 2020. Aaron Bummer shut the door, just like the first two games of the series and the White Sox completed the sweep of the Red Sox, 5-4.

Result: White Sox def. Red Sox 5-4

Record: 6-3, first in AL Central

W: Jimmy Cordero (1-0)

L: Ryan Brasier (1-2)

SV: Aaron Bummer (5)

White Sox lineup

Tim Anderson: 2-5, 2B (.359 BA)

Yoan Moncada: 1-4, 2B (.359 BA)

Jose Abreu: 1-5, RBI (.268 BA)

Edwin Encarnacion: 1-3, 2 BB (.226 BA)

Yasmani Grandal: 1-3, 2 BB (.343 BA)

Eloy Jimenez: 1-4, HR, 3 RBI (.273 BA)

Luis Robert: 0-5 (.211 BA)

Nomar Mazara: 1-4, HR, RBI (.212 BA)

Leury Garcia: 0-3, BB (.231 BA)

Scoring summary

Top 3rd:

Jose Abreu singled to left field. Tim Anderson scored. 1-0 CHW.

Bottom 5th:

Christian Vazquez homered to left field. Mitch Moreland scored. Alex Verdugo scored. 3-1 BOS

Bottom 7th:

Jackie Bradley Jr. walked. Rafael Devers scored. 4-1 BOS

Top 8th:

Eloy Jimenez homered to left field. Edwin Encarnacion scored. Yasmani Grandal scored. 4-4
Nomar Mazara homered to right field. 5-4 CHW

Notable performance: Though he may sit just outside of the heart of the White Sox order, Eloy Jimenez has been the team’s top run producer this year. With his three-run homer in the eighth, the young slugger already has 11 RBIs in nine games. That’s the most on the White Sox and tied for ninth in the AL.

Next game: Monday, April 6 - Game 10: Mariners vs. White Sox (Dylan Cease vs. Marco Gonzales)

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Taking ‘finding new ways to win’ to the extreme

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Taking ‘finding new ways to win’ to the extreme

Baseball’s history is long, so what happened in the bottom of the eighth on May 5, 2005, probably happened before.

But it couldn’t have happened many times.

When you shotgun a season of winning baseball in quick succession, like we’re doing while watching #SoxRewind, it’s easy to notice how good teams are capable of finding so many different ways to win. The White Sox 21st win of the 2005 season, though, took that concept to the extreme.

Zack Greinke dominated the South Side offense through seven innings, allowing just two hits and no runs. Jose Contreras stifled the Royals almost as well, but a home run off the bat of Tony Graffanino in the seventh gave the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The White Sox didn’t get another hit, but they capitalized on some dreadful Royals pitching to grab what had to be one of their more improbable victories in a 99-win season.

Greinke walked Paul Konerko to lead off the bottom of the eighth, and after a sacrifice bunt, Jermaine Dye was hit by a pitch to put the go-ahead run on base. Andy Sisco came in and got Jamie Burke to ground out — he swung at the first pitch — but the wheels quickly fell off. Sisco walked Joe Crede on five pitches to load the bases, and then he walked Juan Uribe on four pitches to force in the tying run.

Uribe didn’t seem to have any intention of swinging, making the plate appearance seem like it would have had the same result had he left his bat in the dugout.

After Sisco got the hook, Ambiorix Burgos entered and promptly walked Scott Podsednik to put the White Sox in front.


Against three straight batters with two runners in scoring position and two outs, including back-to-back with the bases loaded, Royals relievers threw 13 pitches, just one of which was a strike.

Though Tadahito Iguchi struck out to end the inning, the bottom of the eighth went thusly for the White Sox: They scored two runs, flipped a deficit to a lead, sent eight men to the plate, saw five men reach base and got exactly zero hits.

Incredible.

Winning 99 regular-season games and winning a championship takes an awful lot of talent and overmatching of opponents. But it also takes a good amount of good fortune, and this day, the White Sox took advantage of the mistakes of a Royals team that ended up with 106 losses.

And it happened in a way you’ll be hard pressed to witness again.

What else?

— The conditions were right for the White Sox to pull out a win after Contreras dazzled through eight one-run innings. It was his first win of the season and one of his finest performances of 2005. Prior to giving up the seventh-inning home run to Graffanino, he retired 17 of the first 19 batters he faced. Then after giving up the homer and allowing two more base runners in the seventh, he went 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth on just seven pitches. This was one of five regular-season outings in 2005 in which Contreras went at least eight innings. The other four came in his final eight starts of the year, including in each of his final three.

— Shingo time finally ran out. After the White Sox took the lead in that wacky eighth, the closer didn’t make for an easy save in the ninth. Aaron Rowand made a diving play to get the first out of the inning, but Takatsu followed with back-to-back walks, putting the go-ahead run on base. He got a strikeout of Ken Harvey for Out No. 2, but both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch during the next at-bat. Takatsu got Terrence Long to fly out to end the game, but that was far too much of a nail-biter. Takatsu’s tenure as White Sox closer was over after this game, his final appearance in a save situation as a South Sider.

— That Rowand catch for the first out in the ninth inning? It was fantastic, by the way.


— Goodness, Greinke was good. As discussed the last time we saw the 21-year-old Greinke on #SoxRewind, this was not one of his better seasons. But he looked like the elite pitcher he has since become in this one, all but completely shutting down the White Sox offense. Before starting that ludicrous eighth inning, he had tossed seven shutout innings with just two singles allowed. Greinke, though, was seeing this same situation play out over and over again to begin his 2005 season. He was getting no run support, like worse than Jose Quintana levels of run support. The Royals scored a grand total of seven runs in his first five starts coming into this game, then scored one in this game and one in the next, giving Greinke an average of just 1.29 runs per game over his first seven starts of the season.

— Darrin Jackson: “It’s not something you’re going to see very often, Scott Podsednik caught stealing.” Coming into this game, that was certainly the case. The White Sox leadoff hitter, coming off 70 stolen bases with the Brewers in 2004, had 11 swiped bags and had been caught stealing just once in his first 21 contests as a South Sider. But Podsednik actually ended up the major league leader in that category, caught 23 times by the time the regular season wrapped up. Of course, he also stole 59 bases, a total that ranked third in baseball behind Chone Figgins (62) and Jose Reyes (60). He was caught stealing for the second time in the fourth inning of this game.

— As mentioned, Graffanino’s home run accounted for the only Royals run. Graffanino spent four seasons with the White Sox, batting .271 with a .344 on-base percentage. This was one of four home runs he hit against the South Siders in his 13-year major league career.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the May 8, 2005, game against the Blue Jays, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. The White Sox bats jumped all over Gustavo Chacin, and Mark Buehrle had just one bumpy inning en route to his fifth win.

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