The White Sox went from bad to worse after allowing the Pirates to rally with four runs in the ninth for a 6-5 victory Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
It was the fifth consecutive loss and ninth in 10 games for the Sox (9-25), who have the worst home record (3-15, the franchise’s worst ever) in baseball.
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In a rebuilding year, a loss can be just another loss. But this ninth-inning collapse overshadowed an outstanding outing by right-hander Reynaldo Lopez and two-run homers from shortstop Tim Anderson and right fielder Daniel Palka. Nate Jones allowed four runs on 10 pitches in the Pirates’ ninth-inning ambush.
“We threw our best guy out there to close it out and it just didn’t happen,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “[Jones is] our best guy to finish it off. I couldn’t have scripted it any better today, to be honest. We did exactly what we wanted to do, had the guy to close it out and we didn’t. That’s it.’’
Jones walked off the mound to some boos, which have been few and far between from understanding crowds who get where the Sox are at in their rebuilding process. But this team, which lost for the 13th time after it had a lead, has performed even worse than expected.
“We understand it. We get it,’’ Anderson said. “We’re in the middle of a rebuild — that’s what they call it. So there are going to be some struggles. We’re in the middle of something that will benefit us in the future.’’
Jones (4.40 ERA), who entered with a comfortable three-run lead, was peppered for four hits over his first 10 pitches, including a two-run ground-rule double by Elias Diaz just beyond the reach of Palka near the foul line that cut the Sox’ lead to one run. Colin Moran followed with his third homer to put the Pirates (21-17) in front.
“I didn’t execute and big-league hitters do what they’re supposed to do when you leave pitches up or in the zone,’’ Jones said. “I paid for it.”
Pirates left-hander Felipe Vazquez pitched a perfect ninth, sealing a difficult loss the Sox will have to chew on during an off day Thursday leading up to a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“Games like today are painful losses because you want to win,’’ said Lopez, who felt like he pitched his best game to date. “At the same time, it’s not that we’re playing to lose. We’re playing to win and sometimes things go wrong for us.
“We can’t think about today’s game. We have to play another game in two days and we have to move forward.’’
Lopez retired the first 10 batters he faced, allowed two runs and struck out six over a career-high 7⅓ innings, exiting to a standing ovation from a paid crowd of 12,476.
Palka, who hit his third home run, was 3-for-3 with two RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base. But he came up short with his backhanded catch attempt on Diaz’s
double after having to slow down near the side wall.
Palka might have given way to Trayce Thompson as a late defensive replacement in right field but Thompson was taking Leury Garcia’s place in left because Renteria pulled him for not running hard on an attempted bunt for a hit in the seventh inning.
“We make no bones about it across the board with any of our players,’’ said Renteria, who benched Avisail Garcia for a similar instance during spring training. “If you want to play for the White Sox, we are going to play the game a certain way. Give some energy and effort.’’