Sox get 'wakeup call' as losing streak stretches to five

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Houston Astros are one of baseball's best teams.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are not.

But the result was the same for the Chicago White Sox as their increasingly nightmarish road trip made its second stop Tuesday.

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Arrived in Pennsylvania, the South Siders looked much the way they did during an ugly four-game sweep over the weekend in Texas, the bats silent for much of the night and the defense and bullpen combining for a seventh-inning implosion in a 6-3 defeat.

"It's just kind of a test right now," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said. "Rough series, then we dropped this first game.

"I think maybe it's a little wakeup call we need. We've got to come ready to play from the beginning of the game."

While the White Sox have made a habit of resiliency, of stepping up in the face of an onslaught of injuries and of keeping the right attitude whether winning or losing, their lineup is more reliant on bench players than ever, their bullpen continues to search for the excellence it was expected to have in the spring, and their phenomenal starting staff is finding little room for error.

For a team that sits atop the AL Central — though that lead has shrunk, the second-place Cleveland Indians haven't done much to take advantage of the White Sox recent skid — and continues to harbor championship aspirations, it's been a woeful stretch that has cast a harsh spotlight on the work general manager Rick Hahn might have to do ahead of the trade deadline.


"It's tough, man," Giolito said. "We're battling through a ton of adversity right now, the injuries and everything else. I think we've just got to stay true to how close we are, how much we believe in ourselves, all the stuff we were talking about in spring training and the beginning of the year and just kind of get the momentum back on our side.

"I just feel like we haven't been able to hit that groove the last few days."

This was a lineup that was supposed to be menacing. And yet, with several gigantic holes punched in the middle of it thanks to significant injuries, it couldn't muster anything against Pirates starter Tyler Anderson through six innings Tuesday.

Yasmani Grandal came to the rescue with a massive pinch-hit homer in the seventh that seemed like it would turn the season around just like it did the score. But the lead was short lived.

In the bottom of the inning, a costly Yoán Moncada throwing error tied the game, and Garrett Crochet couldn't get an out, all four batters he faced singling and all four scoring to flip the game right back.

"Cruel," White Sox manager Tony La Russa, always referencing the baseball gods, said of the way momentum swung right back away from his team following Grandal's home run.

It was the same old story carried over from a weekend to forget. But these weren't the Astros.

"We came out a little flat, and it was expected," Grandal said. "It was the first day off we had in a while. Teams usually come back a little flat after a day off after the run that we had.

"It seemed like the dugout came alive (after the home run). That's what we need to get back to, White Sox baseball, which is high energy and it's go, go, go at all times."

Maybe an answer is staring the White Sox in the face during this brief two-day stay in Pittsburgh. Adam Frazier, the Pirates second baseman setting White Sox Twitter abuzz as a potential trade target, scored twice, including on the home run he hit off Giolito.

With Nick Madrigal out for the year, Frazier and the All-Star campaign he's putting together offensively would seem a near perfect solution. But more than a few-month rental, Frazier could demand a hefty return package for the Pirates, who have long made a habit of building rosters out of deadline deals.

But whether Hahn goes shopping in Pittsburgh or rings up the Arizona Diamondbacks or simply waits for Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert to get healthy or pulls together some combination of the three, the White Sox are right where a championship-dreaming team doesn't want to be: slogging through an injury-riddled roster on a losing streak where nothing is going right.


At least it's only June.

"Teams are going to go through this," Grandal said. "We've just got to continue to play. It's well known that everybody is going to be coming out and gunning for us, and that's what we want. But it's just another stepping stone.

"We're going to have ups and downs during the year, and these things are going to happen. It's just a matter of how fast we can turn it around.

"Tomorrow's another day. We've just got to turn the page."

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