A 1-0 loss notwithstanding, the White Sox are trending upward, but this is only a taste, general manager Rick Hahn says.
“I do think the best is yet to come,” Hahn said Wednesday before the Sox fell to the Brewers and right-hander Adrian Houser at Guaranteed Rate Field, their six-game winning streak grinding to a halt. “We haven’t had our lineup that we’ve projected to have for the long term out there yet due to the injuries. So I do think — even as fine of an offensive unit that we’ve had so far — that we can be even more dangerous in the coming years, if not at some point over the course of the 2020 season.”
The Sox (7-5) had been rolling after a 1-4 start, leading the majors in batting average (.284) and ranking fourth in on-base percentage (.384) and slugging (.454), but all of those numbers took a trim after Houser (0.75 ERA in two starts) blanked them for seven innings.
The welcome news for the Sox was a third consecutive good outing by left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who struck out eight and lowered his ERA to 2.55 with seven innings of one-run ball. Three consecutive singles by the lower third of the Brewers’ lineup in the third inning, with Eric Sogard supplying the RBI, gave Milwaukee the run it needed.
With Houser out of the game, Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada brought the Sox’ dugout to its feet with warning-track flyouts to center field and right field, respectively, against David Phelps in the eighth inning. Perhaps the Sox, who were hitting .352/.411/.488 with 29 runs scored in the last four games, were due for a night like this, especially in cooler weather.
“It was a little cooler, more humid today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The guys put on some good swings, but obviously the ball didn’t carry as well tonight.”
“We’ve been hot, and eventually it’s going to come to an end,” Keuchel said. “Game in and game out, we know we’re going to be in these contests. If we can win series, that’s a playoff recipe.”
Brewers All-Star lefty Josh Hader pitched a perfect ninth, striking out Eloy Jimenez to end it in a crisp two hours, 21 minutes. The way the Sox have been going, they probably thought it was only a matter of time before they’d get to Houser.
“He throws the ball well when he’s up in the zone,” said Danny Mendick, who contributed a career-high three hits in taking over for the injured Nick Madrigal at second base.
“Some of the hitters came back to the dugout saying his stuff was really, really live,” Keuchel said.
It was the third game in a row against the postseason-tested Brewers with a playoff-type feel. The Sox haven’t had those in recent years, and they haven’t been playing expecting to win in recent years.
That’s all changed now.
“We have that belief now that I think was kind of missing the last couple of years that we trust how good we are,” righty Lucas Giolito said Tuesday. “We trust our talent, and we know that if the game’s close, we have a very good chance of winning it, no matter what inning or situation or who’s pitching for them.”
Hahn, meanwhile, continues to see the big picture as the rebuild comes together.
“People look at both the growth of the young guys, as well as some of the players we’ve brought in, and they sort of see how this thing could lay out for the better part of the next decade,” he said. “And with that excitement comes expectations. And if you get off to a stutter step on the start, then, sure, there’s going to be criticism.
“No one internally was pleased with the 1-4 start. But the way that clubhouse responded speaks to not only their expectations, but their ability to respond to both high expectations as well as early difficulties.”