HOUSTON — Just when the White Sox were maybe — just maybe — turning a corner on the road to a possible 2022 recovery, the injury bug splattered on their windshield again Friday night.
What’s more, the Astros pummeled three Sox pitchers, most significantly starter Lucas Giolito, in a 10-run sixth inning in a 13-3 rout in the opener of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
Talk about a double dose of hurt.
Before the Astros’ first double-digit inning in five seasons, Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada exited after the second inning with tightness in his right hamstring. Although it didn’t appear to be major — Moncada stayed in the game for a half-inning on defense after he was left hobbling from running out a ground ball — hamstrings have a way of needing more than a day to heal, and the Sox already have dealt with an unprecedented onslaught of injuries in this disappointing season.
Moncada will be evaluated more Saturday.
“He felt something in his leg, so that’s not good,” said manager Tony La Russa, who was waiting to get a report from training staff immediately after the game.
Looking to get to .500 after an encouraging series sweep in Detroit, the Sox and Giolito (4-3) fell behind quickly on Alex Bregman’s two-run homer in the first and Yuli Gurriel’s first-pitch leadoff homer in the second, the 12th and 13th long balls Giolito has allowed this season.
Sox left fielder AJ Pollock pounded a three-run homer to right center against lefty Framber Valez (7-3) to tie the game in the third, and Giolito responded with three scoreless innings to keep the score even, but the Astros hit three of their five homers in the sixth. The first five batters reached against Giolito.
“I walked the leadoff batter, and I fell behind pretty much everyone I faced,” Giolito said. “Didn’t execute pitches at all. That’s really it.”
It marked the fourth consecutive crooked-number start for Giolito, the Sox’ Opening Day starter, who was charged with eight runs, two of which scored on Michael Brantley’s grand slam against Matt Foster in the 10-run sixth. Yordan Alvarez also homered against Foster, and Michael Tucker homered against Tanner Banks to cap the inning.
“Once it got away, it got away,” La Russa said.
Giolito has allowed six, two, four and eight earned runs in his last four starts. His ERA climbed to 4.79.
“We just kind of lost it in that one inning,” catch Seby Zavala said. “Got to find a way to get [Giolito] through that third time through the order. That was one thing we were talking about coming into the game, how we were going to get him through those later innings.”
Moncada, meanwhile, has had a difficult time sustaining his health in 2022. He didn’t play his first game of the season until May 9 because of an oblique strain suffered at the end of spring training. He dealt with a tight right quadriceps and had been limited to playing in 28 of 36 games since.
This latest setback comes at an inopportune time. Moncada, who has struggled offensively, finally broke out Wednesday with five hits, including a three-run homer and five RBI against the Tigers, and the Sox’ offense found some footing in the last week after struggling mightily for much of the season.
“We were excited to get him back in there,” La Russa said. “It gives our lineup a different, dangerous look.”
The Sox (30-32), sitting in third place after winning the division comfortably last season before losing to the Astros in four games in the ALDS, just can’t get on the top side of .500. Winning a series against a quality opponent such as the Astros after sweeping the struggling Tigers would provide a launching point they’ve sought for more than two months. They have two games left in the series.
“We played great in the Detroit series, a ton of momentum,” Giolito said. “Everything was clicking well. It’s not good to go out there and do what I did, considering.”