Mistakes on bases, bullpen failure in ninth cost White Sox, who fall back to .500

The Rockies walked off the White Sox.

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Kendall Graveman gave up the lead in the ninth inning.

White Sox catcher Seby Zavala, left, confers with pitcher Kendall Graveman as first baseman Jose Abreu listen s after Graveman gave up back-to-back walks to Colorado Rockies’ Brendan Rodgers and Jose Iglesias during the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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DENVER — There was a comeback with some clutch hits, so that was nice.

But there were more costly White Sox mistakes on the basepaths. And another rough first inning for searching right-hander Lucas Giolito, and then a blown ninth-inning lead. And in the humbling end, another Sox loss that prevented them from getting much-needed traction as August in this often-maddening season approaches.

“Heartbreaking loss right there,” said catcher Seby Zavala, who watched Jose Iglesias slide home with the winning run on Elias Diaz’s two-run walk-off single that was just out of second baseman Josh Harrison’s reach in the Rockies’ 6-5 victory at Coors Field.

Looking to get two games above .500 for the first time since they were 6-4 in April, the Sox plummeted back to 49-49 with a thud after Kendall Graveman, trying to protect a one-run lead, walked the bases loaded to open the ninth.

In the end, “we made two mistakes on the bases” that killed scoring chances, manager Tony La Russa said, including an especially glaring one by Leury Garcia.

“It was a tough one,” Garcia said of a loss that prevented a two-game sweep against a beatable team.

At one point, there was hope. Yasmani Grandal and Tim Anderson helped the Sox rally from a 3-0 deficit to forge a tie, and AJ Pollock singled home the Sox’ fourth and fifth runs, giving them a 5-3 lead and a chance to get within two games of the American League Central-leading Twins. At that time, Garcia getting picked off and Jose Abreu getting doubled off second became temporary afterthoughts.

Garcia was on third and Zavala on second with two outs and Yoan Moncada at bat in the fifth when Garcia strayed too far off the base on ball four and was easily picked off by Diaz, ending the inning.

“I saw that [third baseman Ryan McMahon] was way back, and I tried to take as much as I can, and they got me. I was looking for a ball in the dirt and trying to score. I maybe took too much. You have to be smarter in that situation. Can’t make the third out at third base.”

It was the kind of baserunning blunder that soiled the Sox’ underachieving first half, the kind they’ve distanced themselves from during their recent stretch that lifted them above the .500 mark. In the sixth, Abreu, of all people, was doubled off second on a hot liner by Grandal to end the inning.

Garcia started in center field, giving Adam Engel a day off, La Russa said. Engel has filled in at the position since Luis Robert went down with blurred vision and light-headedness July 15.

Batting .206 after signing a three-year, $16.5 million contract, Garcia, the Sox’ longest tenured player, has been a favorite target of disgruntled fans, in part because of La Russa’s expressed confidence in him. Say this for Garcia — he made a running catch in right-center to end the bottom of the fifth inning and save a run from scoring, then smashed a single off Antonio Senzatela’s hip that knocked out Colorado’s starter and started a three-run, go-ahead rally in the seventh.

Giolito, in his first start after lasting only three innings against the Guardians on Friday, gave up a home run to leadoff man Charlie Blackmon and two more runs in the first on a single by C.J. Cron and a double by Iglesias, then worked out of enough trouble in the second through fourth innings to leave trailing only 3-2 after five. Giolito (5.14 ERA) walked four, allowed six hits and struck out four.

“Tough loss,” Giolito said.

“The confidence level is there; it’s just a matter of winning more games. It’s a tough one today, to let it slip away after we battled so hard.”

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