It’s never good when you’re pretty much out of a game before the sun goes down.
But that seemed to be the case Thursday, when White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel allowed three runs to the Red Sox in each of the first two innings in a 16-7 loss at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Keuchel, one of three $18 million players at the top of the Sox’ payroll this season (along with Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal) but the weakest link in the starting rotation, gave up six runs and seven hits, including two home runs. With the score 6-0, Keuchel was booed on an otherwise-beautiful night for baseball.
Keuchel’s outing, which raised his ERA to 7.88, was short and loaded with crooked numbers, including four strikeouts and two walks. Andrew Vaughn did all he could to repair the damage against Keuchel with a career-high five RBI on a bases-clearing double in the third and a two-run homer in the fifth.
“That’s very disappointing, and I mean, really just upset that I’m putting a lot of innings the last two games on our relievers,” said Keuchel, who has allowed 12 runs on 13 hits with five walks in six innings over his last two starts.
“I just really wanted to come out and be the aggressor tonight, and it just seems like I wasn’t really able to get into a rhythm.”
A night after climbing above the .500 mark behind a gritty performance by Lucas Giolito and a three-run homer by Jake Burger, Keuchel put the Sox in a six-run hole. He allowed Kike Hernandez’s second leadoff homer of the series before giving up four more hits that produced two more runs in the first.
In the second, Trevor Story barely cleared left fielder AJ Pollock’s leaping attempt at the fence, dropping his ninth homer — a three-run shot — into the bullpen and dropping a load of gloom and doom on the crowd of 24,896.
Whether the Sox carry on with Keuchel, a former Cy Young Award winner who hasn’t pitched well since 2020, in the rotation for much longer bears watching. He’s in the last year of a three-year, $55 million contract that includes a vesting option for 2023 if he pitches 160 innings this season.
“Not really,” Keuchel said when asked if he had concerns about staying in the rotation. “I have to do my job. That’s first and foremost. If I don’t do my job I’m the first to admit, hey, there are other options. I’ve afforded myself some leeway and I’m in no way, shape or form out of this thing.”
The Sox’ rotation is otherwise in good shape with Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Johnny Cueto. Vince Velasquez provides depth, and Lance Lynn is expected back in two or three weeks.
“If people want to write me off it’s OK, I’ve been written off before,” Keuchel said. “I’m a competitor, I’m an athlete. We’ll turn the tide. It’s not the first time back to back starts have happened.”
Manager Tony La Russa steered clear of questions about Keuchel’s future in the rotation.
“I think about today. When he’s right, he’s giving up ground balls,” La Russa said. “Right away most of the balls are in the air which shows that at that point, movement wasn’t there. Location wasn’t there. So, that’s what I think.
“Today it was atypical for him, which happens to pitchers. Someday stuff is not working as well and you don’t get the normal kind of outing.”
Jose Ruiz allowed a run in the fifth before Vaughn lifted his fifth homer into the left-field seats with Engel aboard in the bottom of the inning to make it 7-5.
The Red Sox, however, kept piling it on, roughing up Tanner Banks for six runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings. La Russa said the relievers who did not pitch were for the most part unavailable, although he might have considered Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks with a lead. When he finally pulled Banks, things went from bad to embarrassing when Bennett Sousa overthrew first baseman Jose Abreu on a grounder to the mound that scored the Red Sox’ 13th and 14th runs. Both were charged to Banks.
Infielder Josh Harrison pitched the ninth for the Sox, allowing a two-run homer to Kevin Plawecki.
The Red Sox finished with 19 hits, including four by Alex Verdugo and three each by J.D. Martinez, Story and Christian Vazquez. It marked the first time in franchise history the Sox allowed 16 runs twice in the same series.