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Starting pitching continues to plague White Sox in loss to Orioles

Chicago White Sox pitcher Ervin Santana throws against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton) ORG XMIT: MDGB102

BALTIMORE — It all starts with pitching, a shrewd baseball observer said, and it starts with the starters, of course. Which is the biggest reason most White Sox games aren’t ending well.

When the Sox broke camp in Arizona in late March, they thought their starting rotation of Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Ivan Nova and Ervin Santana was serviceable, at least.

It has been nothing of the sort, certainly not what manager Rick Renteria expected.

“No, not at all,” Renteria said before a 4-3 loss Wednesday by the Sox and Santana gave the 10-16 Orioles their first series victory at home.

“We expected better from the beginning of the season with the guys we had, but obviously that hasn’t been the case.”

The Sox fell to 9-14. So it goes when one of your starting pitchers (Rodon) is good, another (Lopez) makes two good starts and three bad ones, another (Giolito) has one good one and gets hurt in his fourth outing and two more (veterans Nova and Santana) are just bad.

With the exception of Rodon’s 2.89, these ERAs aren’t going to play: Giolito, 5.30; Lopez, 7.46; Nova, 8.42; Santana, 9.45.

A night after Nova was strafed for four homers and nine runs in four innings in a 9-1 loss, Santana fell behind 3-0 his first time through the lineup, giving up three straight hits — doubles to Dwight Smith Jr. and Renato Nunez and a single to Rio Ruiz — in a two-run first. In the second, Joey Rickard led off with a triple and scored on Hanser

Alberto’s sacrifice fly.

Santana settled in a little, retiring seven in a row, but Stevie Wilkerson’s homer in the fourth gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead.

Renteria didn’t trust Santana, lifting him at 71 pitches in favor of left-hander Jace Fry to face Smith Jr. after Trey Mancini’s two-out single in the fifth.

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Nevertheless, Santana came away feeling good about it.

“Way better,” Santana said. “I know the first two innings is not what we expected it to be, but after that I was more comfortable, more aggressive in the strike zone. The good thing about this outing was zero walks.

“The next one will be better.”

All of the Orioles’ RBI came with two strikes against Santana, who, lacking the put-away pitch, had one strikeout.

“Not executing, locating, you end up leaving pitches out over the plate that are put into play,” Renteria said.

After being stymied by soft-tossing lefty James Means’ changeup — Means had a career-high six strikeouts in five innings of one-run ball — the Sox scored a run in the sixth when Ryan Cordell got hit on the arm by a pitch from Evan Phillips with the bases loaded to make it 4-2.

Against Mychal Givens in the ninth, Leury Garcia doubled and Jose Abreu collected his second RBI double to make it 4-3. Abreu got to third on a wild pitch before, with the infield in, cleanup man James McCann

(3-for-5) struck out on a pitch off the plate and Yoan Moncada grounded sharply to shortstop Richie Martin, who ranged to his left on the right side of second to get Moncada on a close play, ending the game.

“We have a very good offense,” Moncada (0-for-4) said through a translator. “We feel confident we can score runs. I thought I had a chance, but that’s how baseball is sometimes. Today wasn’t the day for me.”

The Sox head home after losing two of three to the Tigers and Orioles, not exactly formidable opponents. This April hasn’t been the month for Sox starting pitchers.

“A lack of command,” Renteria said. “There’s still a lot of misses going on. Coop [pitching coach Don Cooper] and Has [bullpen coach Curt Hasler] are looking at all that stuff.”