PITTSBURGH – You never know what a day will bring in this up and down – mostly down – season for the White Sox.
They swept a good Astros team at U.S. Cellular Field last week, then went on the road and got swept by the Tampa Bay Rays.
In a 11-0 drubbing by the Pittsburgh on Monday night, they had more errors (three) than hits (two) and got clobbered in every phase of the game. A bright spot has been Carlos Rodon, the rookie left-hander who had thrown 11 scoreless innings and owned a 1.11 ERA over his last four starts, but Rodon allowed the first six batters to reach base and it felt like game, set and match before the Blackhawks had even dropped the puck in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals back home.
Rodon gave up five runs before recording an out and left in the fourth after the Pirates scored their sixth run.
“It gets to that point where you’re trying to figure out what it is,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “You play a good series against a team like Houston — that’s a first-place team and it looks good — and then you go and stub your toe coming out of it.’’
While Rodon was getting his toes stepped on by the Pirates lineup, former Sox lefty Francisco Liriano was dominating the Sox lineup, taking a no-hitter into the fifth and finishing with 12 strikeouts, one walk and two hits allowed in eight innings. The Sox lineup ranks last or next to last in the American League in numerous categories, including runs, on-base percentage, homers and slugging. The general feeling is the offense will pick up if players like Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez produce as they normally do. But the defense, shaky and unsupportive of a decent pitching staff, may be exactly what’s been on display these first three months of the season.
Sox pitching, hitting and defense all failed badly Monday. Jose Abreu, Gordon Beckham and Ramirez each committed an infield error. Abreu had an easy out after cutting off a throw from Eaton in center but lost the handle on the ball, and Beckham allowed Starling Marte to circle the bases on a double to right when he couldn’t glove second baseman Emilio Bonifacio’s relay throw. Marte never broke stride, and the Pirates widened their lead to 10-0. Ramirez, who had a poor series against the Rays, pulled Abreu off the bag on a routine grounder.
“We get a good hustle play from [Adam] Eaton getting on base to open the game and after that I don’t know what we did well,” Ventura said. “We didn’t do anything well after that. It’s that simple.
“We’re not doing anything to threaten anybody on offense. We have to do that to stay in this. Our propensity to give up runs in the first inning and not score is going to be difficult. These guys have to find a way to grind and find a way to do it.”
The Sox have been outscored 53-19 in the first inning.
“We have to stop that,” Ventura said. “You get to a point where you have to put something back on them push back a little bit. And we didn’t do it. We didn’t do it with defense, pitching or offense tonight.”
The starting pitching, which has been good of late with a 3.53 ERA since May 7, third-best in the AL during that stretch, even had an off night.
“Fastball command wasn’t too great, leaving balls over the plate and balls were getting hit,” Rodon said. “That was a good hitting club. It’s the big leagues, anybody can hit.”
The Pirates, who had seven hits against reliever Hector Noesi, out-hit the Sox 18-2.
NOTE: Right-hander Matt Albers threw his first bullpen since breaking a pinky finger in the April brawl with the Kansas City Royals. Albers hopes to return before the All-Star break in mid-July.
*Manager Robin Ventura returned to the dugout after missing the weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla, to attend his daughter’s college graduation in California.