Veteran that he is, Johnny Cueto didn’t rattle after the Dodgers jumped him for two early home runs. Instead, he settled in and shut them down for the rest of his six innings.
But the way the White Sox are struggling to score runs, and on a night they faced tough right-hander Tony Gonsolin, their 4-1 loss that halted a needed three-game winning streak and stymied a bid to reach .500 seemed mapped out early.
The Sox scraped together four hits, one a homer by Jake Burger in the fifth. Gavin Sheets doubled and AJ Pollock walked but Gonsolin (7-0, 1.58 ERA) retired Danny Mendick, Leury Garcia and Luis Robert and the Sox were never to be heard from again.
“When a guy is pitching that well, every chance you get, you gotta mark and we didn’t,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Cueto served up homers to Will Smith and Cody Bellinger in the first two innings.
Both long balls were on mistake pitches, Cueto said, “but after that, I got better.”
As the Sox wait to get better with Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez coming back from injuries, their starting rotation is settling into a good place.
Cueto went six innings yet again and looks like a strong fit as a fifth starter. He struck out five and allowed one hit after Bellinger’s homer in the second, a stout finish against most prolific lineups in the majors. In five starts this season, Cueto has pitched six innings four times and 6 2/3 innings once. The rest of the Sox rotation has thrown six-plus innings 11 times.
With Michael Kopech (1.94 ERA) looking like a Game 1 postseason starter when he tossed six scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Dodgers Tuesday, Dylan Cease (3.39 ERA) leading the majors with 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings, Opening Day starter Lucas Giolito pitching to a 3.54 ERA – although his last two starts were on the wobbly side — and All-Star Lance Lynn pitching what might have been his final tuneup for Triple-A Charlotte Wednesday night, the Sox are finally piecing their rotation together.
Lynn could join the rotation next week.
“If his arm and his leg feel good, then he’ll be here next week,” La Russa said. “If not, we’ll give him another [start for Charlotte].”
Lynn’s numbers were bad but he threw 55 of his 77 pitches for strikes, which is generally the focus for proven pitchers building up workloads on rehab assignments. He allowed seven runs (six earned) on eight hits. He struck out three and walked one. His ERA in three starts is 8.10.
Burger was a force during the win streak, and he led off the fifth with a homer, his sixth. He has hit safely with at least one RBI in his four straight games and has four homers, four doubles and 12 RBI in his last 10.
Garcia, whose hitting line dipped to .184/.194/.257 in the first year of his three-year, $16.5 million contract, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and was booed.
“It was a horse [bleep] night,” Garcia said. “I felt like [bleep] at the plate. But I give it all I got. Nobody wants three strikeouts. I just have to keep working and things ....are going to change.”
La Russa showed confidence in batting Garcia, who had been slowed by a sore hip in recent days, in Anderson’s customary leadoff spot.
“He’s pretty frustrated and got off his game,” La Russa said. “He’s got a better game than that. That’s what they’ll work on tomorrow.”
Andrew Vaughn [.291/.340/.485] was rested as La Russa strives to keep players strong to the end of the season, so the Sox had that to overcome.
Asked if he was considering changes, La Russa said, “I consider everything. I also consider we won three in a row so I’m not dumping a club just because they got beat one game where a guy with a 1.00 ERA shuts us down.”