White Sox

White Sox pitching problems persist in ugliest performance yet

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USA TODAY

White Sox pitching problems persist in ugliest performance yet

That’s no moon. That’s the White Sox team ERA.

Maybe there was a better joke to make after the White Sox were blown up like Alderaan in a two-touchdown loss to the visiting Boston Red Sox on Star Wars Night. But that one seemed plenty appropriate for a team that might have to start holding tryouts for Wookiees and Wampas and any other intergalactic species that might be able to get some outs.

All right, that’s probably enough with the Star Wars references for now.

The fact remains, though, that White Sox pitching to this point has been mostly unsuccessful in 2019. Manny Banuelos getting lit up in a nightmarish, when-will-it-end third inning Friday night was just the latest sore sight, though perhaps there have been none worse. After retiring the first eight hitters he faced, he gave up two-out hits to the next 10. Nine of them scored. Carson Fulmer didn’t fare much better, facing eight batters and getting just one out, a nasty stretch that saw the first six hitters of the fourth inning reach base. Five of them scored.

By the time it was all said and done, the White Sox gave up 15 runs on 20 hits and watched their staff ERA climb to 5.55, the second highest in baseball.

White Sox starters have been the worst offenders, the rotation now in possession of a 6.82 ERA after Saturday’s debacle. None of the team’s starters have pitched well enough to own an ERA below 5.00. Carlos Rodon, who’s on the injured list for the foreseeable future with a significant elbow injury that could result in Tommy John surgery, leads the way with a 5.19 ERA. Everyone else has a worse mark: Lucas Giolito at 5.32, Banuelos at 5.96, Reynaldo Lopez at 6.69 and Ivan Nova at 8.33.

That the rotation contains two pitchers with higher ERAs than the guy who gave up nine runs and left before the end of the third inning Saturday night should say quite a lot.

While the bullpen can hardly claim innocence, they at least have an excuse. The rotation has been unable to log many innings, their 151.2 of them among the fewest in the league by a starting staff. That leads to a taxed bullpen, a tired bullpen, a vulnerable bullpen and ultimately, what we saw Friday night, when infielder Jose Rondon was sent to the mound in just a five-run game.

“It’s hard, man, it’s hard,” Banuelos said of the rotation’s continued inability to go deep into games. “Honestly that’s my goal every time I get the chance to start a game. I’ve been in the bullpen, and I know how that feels. My goal is just every time I get the ball, try to go deep in the game, six or seven innings. Today it didn’t work that way.”

It could be more of the same when Dylan Covey makes his first start of 2019 on Sunday. Though the starter has been determined, manager Rick Renteria has described it as a bullpen day already. That’s hard to do with a bullpen that’s been as overworked as this one, and it’s why Fulmer and Jose Ruiz were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after Saturday’s game: to make room for more arms.

Covey has been tabbed as the guy to replace Rodon in the rotation. White Sox fans are familiar with Covey’s work as a starter. He put up a 6.26 ERA in 33 starts during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The White Sox, though, are confident things will go better this time around.

It has to, because there’s practically no starting-pitching depth to speak of behind this current quintet. The numbers at Charlotte — aside from highly touted pitching prospect Dylan Cease, whose timeline won’t be altered because of a need at the big league level, per general manager Rick Hahn — aren’t much better than the ones on the South Side.

With nowhere to turn, the White Sox are banking on the hope that going back to the drawing board will work, that attempting to correct what’s made for one brief, high-scoring outing after another will click at some point.

“The guys that we still have left pitching right now, they have the capability of executing,” Renteria said after Saturday’s game. “We'll kind of work and see what we discover through our stuff tomorrow when we're looking at everything. In terms of confidence, these guys have enough stuff to do it. We've seen them do it. It's just a matter of trying to get them to consistently be able to effectively get through a ballgame.”

Maybe that consistency will come, but what if it doesn’t? Fans are certainly tired of this already, just a little more than a month into the campaign. Their wishes for the team to sign the still-unemployed Dallas Keuchel or trade for the apparently available Marcus Stroman are probably unrealistic. But can they be expected to just sit through this for another five months?

The White Sox are still in the thick of their rebuild. That is understood. And the growing pains and losing records the team is experiencing right now were experienced by the teams that have rebuilt before. The Cubs and the Houston Astros went through miserable seasons with plenty of bad pitching and came out the other side World Series champions.

And it’s very possible, if not probable, that the bulk of the rotation of the future just isn’t here right now. Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning are on the mend from Tommy John surgery. Cease is still cooking at Triple-A. Hahn speculated that maybe the team will need to go out and acquire a top-of-the-rotation starter from outside the organization in an offseason to come.

While the White Sox talked of increased expectations before the season began, it’s possible, at the very least when it comes to the pitching, that the waiting game is still very much ongoing and these woeful results are just what happens while the White Sox wait.

But let’s address those increased expectations. They were talked up not by a hopeful fan base but by the players and manager and general manager themselves. The White Sox wanted as much focus placed on the present as there has been on the future in recent years. If there are increased expectations, what is the penalty for not meeting them?

It wouldn’t exactly be shocking to see another year of development, another year of losing at the big league level. And it should be pointed out that even after a hideous performance Saturday, these White Sox are just three games under .500, a big improvement in the win-loss department (at the moment, anyway) from where this team was last season. There are brighter bright spots right now in Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada than there were at any point last season.

But the pitching? Oh, the pitching. It’s been really, really ugly and never uglier than Saturday.

As Renteria so often points out, his players are trying to do the things that lead to better outcomes. They’re trying to be more consistent. They’re trying to do what Ivan Nova said at one point earlier this season: “pitch better.”

But as every Jedi in training knows: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: The time A.J. and Marte saved the day

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: The time A.J. and Marte saved the day

Sometimes you’ve just got to shout out a game-saving play.

In this instance, the fact that the play was needed was actually the fault of the person who made it. But that’s baseball for you: You always have a chance to make up for what you just did.

On April 23, 2005, the White Sox and the Royals were locked in a two-all tie in the bottom of the ninth of a tilt in Kansas City. Damaso Marte, however, was in a bit of a jam. After Luis Vizcaino gave up the tying run in the previous inning, Marte loaded the bases with one out.

In a pressure-packed moment that could have instantly ended with the White Sox the losers, Marte did not help his own cause by throwing a way-off-the-mark pitch right past A.J. Pierzynski.

The runner on third, Matt Diaz, came home in an attempt to score the game-winning run and walk off the visiting White Sox. But Pierzynski and Marte sprung into action. Pierzynski fed Marte, Marte met Diaz at home and the reliever tagged the runner for the second out of the inning.

Game saved.


You’ve got to love Hawk Harrelson’s call on that one, too: “Here comes the runner! Give it to him! You got him! Yes!”

Marte followed that up with an inning-ending strikeout, allowing the White Sox bats to score the game-winning run in the 10th inning. Ozzie Guillen sent Marte back out for the bottom of the 10th, and Marte went 1-2-3 to lock down the win.

Every championship season — and plenty of those that don’t end with a trophy — features those kinds of game-saving plays. And it was, in general, a game-saving performance by the White Sox bullpen as a whole in this one.

Jose Contreras lasted just 3.1 innings — details on that below — forcing the South Side relief corps into duty for a whopping 6.2 innings. They limited the Royals to just one run.

I talked earlier during our #SoxRewind about how good the White Sox bullpen was, combining with that sensational rotation to make a truly championship-caliber pitching staff. And Adam Hoge wrote about Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts, two of the four White Sox relievers who stepped up to fill the Contreras-less innings in this one.

It’ll be a recurring theme, that great relief.

And on this day back in 2005, a reliever even got in some defensive excellence, too, saving the game for the White Sox.

What else?

— After giving up a leadoff homer to David DeJesus, Contreras was dealing. He struck out six of the last eight batters he faced coming into the bottom of the fourth. But coming off the mound on a ground ball hit by Mike Sweeney, he tweaked something in his leg. After a lot of hobbling around the infield, he faced Matt Stairs, who tried to take advantage of Contreras’ physical condition with a bunt attempt. When Contreras hit Stairs with the next pitch, Guillen took his starting pitcher out of the game. Darrin Jackson was under the impression the hit batter had nothing to do with Contreras’ leg hurting and instead was in retaliation for Stairs’ bunt try. Whatever the reason, perhaps both, Contreras lasted just 3.1 innings, his shortest outing of the 2005 season.

— How good was the White Sox rotation in 2005? Contreras’ 3.1-inning outing April 23 was the shortest start made by any of the team’s top four starters that season. The team experienced just three shorter outings by a starting pitcher in 2005, two by Orlando Hernandez and one by Brandon McCarthy.

— The Royals lost 106 games in 2005, and it's not difficult to see why. Kansas City made mistakes all over the place in this one, including two huge ones in crunch time. Diaz coming home on that wild pitch with the bases loaded and just one out was ill advised and potentially prevented the Royals from scoring the winning run in the ninth. Then in the 10th, the Royals botched a double play, only getting one out when the ball was lost on the transfer at second base. It allowed Pierzynski to stay at first base, and he eventually came around to score the winning run on an Aaron Rowand base hit.

— One of the best pitchers in modern baseball history was not so great in 2005. Zack Greinke was a 21-year-old kid when he faced the White Sox in this one. He was good in this game, giving up only one earned run in his seven innings. But he ended up losing 17 games, the most in the AL, in 2005, finishing the campaign with a 5.80 ERA. Fast forward four years, and Greinke was the AL Cy Young winner thanks to a pencil-thin 2.16 ERA that led the major leagues. In his 16-year big league career, Greinke has finished in the top 10 of Cy Young voting five times, turned in six 200-strikeout seasons, made six All-Star teams and won and won six Gold Gloves.

— Pierzynski isn’t the prototypical speed demon. But he motored home from first base on a Juan Uribe double in the second inning. Any sort of good relay would have been sure to nab Pierzynski at the plate. But the Royals couldn’t put that together, and he scored easily. Even Jackson was surprised at the decision to send Pierzynski home: “There's no way he's supposed to send Pierzynski home on that play.” Well, it worked.


— The White Sox 14-4 start was the best through 18 games in club history.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 21, 2005: The White Sox took back-to-back walks to force in a run in the first inning, but Jeremy Bonderman was otherwise strong. The South Siders needed to make a late comeback to topple the Tigers this day, Scott Podsednik driving in a pair with a seventh-inning single to flip a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 win. White Sox win, 4-3, improve to 12-4.

April 22, 2005: The White Sox wore out Royals pitching, scoring eight runs on 12 hits, but hit no homers. Podsednik drew three walks and stole three bases. White Sox win, 8-2, improve to 13-4.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Thursday, when you can catch the April 25, 2005, game against the A’s, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Jon Garland goes the distance, and Chris Widger goes deep.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

NBC Sports Chicago to simulate White Sox games with MLB: The Show

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MLB: The Show, via Forbes

NBC Sports Chicago to simulate White Sox games with MLB: The Show

Chicago, IL (April 1, 2020) – NBC Sports Chicago will present weekly Chicago White Sox MLB: The Show game simulations - based on the team’s original 2020 same day game schedule - beginning tomorrow, Thursday, April 2.  The network’s 2020 White Sox MLB: The Show “Game of the Week” simulations, which will include the same video and audio components of MLB: The Show gameplay, will debut every Thursday at 2:00 PM CT exclusively on NBCSportsChicago.com, the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app and YouTube.com/NBCSportsChicago.  NBC Sports Chicago’s White Sox experts Jason Benetti (@jasonbenetti) and Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) will also be a part of every game simulation, providing entertaining play-by-play and analysis via an in-game video chat.  (NOTE: Fans located anywhere in the U.S. can download MyTeams for free on iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.)

In addition, for all games that were originally scheduled to take place in between NBC Sports Chicago’s MLB: The Show “Game of the Week” simulations, fans can visit NBCSportsChicago.com and the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app for a quick “In :60” video highlight reel, along with a complete game recap.  Please note NBC Sports Chicago’s complete White Sox MLB: The Show game simulation schedule below (NOTE: All games debut at 2:00 PM CT; schedule subject to change):

Thursday, April 2 -- WHITE SOX at BOSTON (Red Sox home opener)
Thursday, April 9 -- WHITE SOX vs. SEATTLE (from Wed, Apr. 8 due to off day on Apr. 9)
Thursday, April 16 -- WHITE SOX vs. TEXAS
Thursday, April 23 -- WHITE SOX at LOS ANGELES (Angels)
Thursday, April 30 -- WHITE SOX at COLORADO (from Wed, Apr. 29 due to off day on Apr. 30)
Thursday, May 7 -- WHITE SOX vs. TAMPA BAY
Thursday, May 14 -- WHITE SOX vs. TORONTO
Thursday, May 21 -- WHITE SOX at MINNESOTA
Thursday, May 28 -- WHITE SOX at BALTIMORE

NOTE:  For the latest news, analysis, team/league updates and team-specific podcasts, fans are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com or download the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app.  

NBC Sports Chicago, a partnership between the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago White Sox (MLB) and the NBC Sports Group, features over 275 live pro games in high definition each year.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago delivers extensive pre/post-game coverage for its core pro team partners, as well as Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs multi-platform coverage, plus - local sports discussion programs that includes SportsTalk Live, and massive cross-platform coverage provided by the network’s growing digital platform, NBCSportsChicago.com, the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app, and its variety of fan-focused social media outlets. Fans can follow the network on Twitter via @NBCSChicago.

NBC Sports Regional Networks is NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of nine regional networks that delivers more than 2,200 live sporting events and original content to more than 35 million homes. Aligned within Eastern and Western Divisions, the NBC Sports Regional Networks are: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia +, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Washington + and SNY; and NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago/NBC Sports Chicago+, and NBC Sports Northwest. For more information on NBC Sports Group properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios, headshots and logos, please visit www.NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com.