White Sox’ bats go silent against Cardinals’ subpar pitching

In seven scoreless innings against Miles Mikolas, Sox hitters managed just four singles on 95 pitches in an eventual 3-0 loss.

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Cardinals catcher Ivan Herrera goes after the ball as the White Sox’ Zach Remillard strikes out in the eighth inning Saturday.

Erin Hooley/AP

An acute lack of swing-and-miss stuff has hindered the disappointing Cardinals pitching staff and held back starting pitcher Miles Mikolas after an All-Star season in 2022.

In the White Sox’ 3-0 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday, the antidote for St. Louis proved to be the seasonlong tendencies of the Sox’ offense.

With the highest swing rate and the least pitches seen per plate appearance in the American League entering the game, the banged-up Sox proved to be the perfect foe for Mikolas to pile up weak contact early in counts. In seven scoreless innings against Mikolas, Sox hitters managed only four singles on 95 pitches. Back-to-back one-out singles by Eloy Jimenez and Andrew Vaughn in the ninth inning set up half of the four at-bats with runners in scoring position for the Sox (38-53) but to no avail.

“Sometimes it’s on us, and sometimes the other guy on the other side did a good job,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “We missed a few pitches that we probably should have hit. We chased a little bit. We’ve got to get back to the drawing board and continue to work. We’ve got to make sure we stay in the strike zone.”

Other than Vaughn’s flyout to the wall in the fourth inning with two runners on, the most excitement for the Sox might have come when Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos was instructed by plate umpire Lance Barrett to wipe off his forearms with a towel with two outs in the eighth. Two years ago in this same ballpark, Gallegos had his hat confiscated by now-retired umpire Joe West after it was inspected for foreign substances.

After getting an inning-ending groundout from Tim Anderson, an irked Gallegos simulated wiping his forearms to the Sox’ dugout. But Grifol and crew chief Alfonso Marquez said the move to have Gallegos wipe rosin off his non-throwing arm wasn’t initiated by a complaint from the Sox.

In their sixth shutout loss of the season, the Sox wasted a solid effort from recent waiver claim Touki Toussaint, who allowed two earned runs and struck out five in five innings in a spot start. Toussaint didn’t allow an extra-base hit nor did any pitcher on either team until Cardinals rookie Jordan Walker lifted a solo shot off Tanner Banks in the ninth. Sox pitchers have had nine games of 14 strikeouts or more — all losses.

Several members of the Sox’ rotation look like possible trade candidates at the end of the month, so Toussaint figures to get more opportunities. Not that he’s in a position to make assumptions.

“I’m just glad I’m here,” Toussaint said. “I’ve been everywhere, so I’m just happy I’m here.”

With many of the same players, the 2020 Sox led the AL in home runs. At the All-Star break in 2021, Sox hitters were second in the AL in walks and on-base percentage as a similar group of reactive hitters was taught to channel its aggression toward pitches it could drive and elevate.

The steady erosion of that approach has led to an offense that struggles to produce baserunners, has too many home runs go for solo shots and is vulnerable to sleepy offensive efforts.

“We had a ton of ground balls, too, which is what we’re trying not to do,” Grifol said. “We’re trying to elevate the baseball.”

“I definitely think there’s always room for growth in that area,” Vaughn, who had two hits, said about avoiding ground balls. “I think it comes down to more pitch selection.”

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