Easy pleasures have been hard to locate for the White Sox since September of last season and with the relative age of the roster and the lack of homegrown studs in the organization, Chris Sale has a particular designation as the one player fans can feel good about watching without complications…unless of course you fear for his health on every pitch. Which, of course you do.
Sale’s velocity was superb Friday and he certainly didn’t lack for stamina–he simply had a single bad inning. The White Sox offense does not afford its starters bad innings, and went down quietly in a 4-3 loss to Oakland Friday night. They have now failed to beat the A’s in all five attempts this year.
A leadoff single to pesky Adam Rosales, a backdoor slider strikeout of Coco Crisp, a Jed Lowrie line drive that shorthopped on Alejandro De Aza and appeared to attack his groin, and a discouraging four-pitch walk to Yoenis Cespedes, and all of a sudden Chris Sale had himself a situation in the sixth after comfortably enjoying the 3-0 lead his team had staked him to.
Sale revved up for a 95 mph fastball on the outside corner to Josh Donaldson–Oakland’s surprise offensive MVP so far–who lifted a towering fly ball to right that drifted, drifted and drifted until it plopped over Alex Rios’ head and just over the right field wall for a debilitating go-ahead grand slam. Sometimes this tiny ballpark is absolutely the worst.
It marred a night where the still very functionally inept White Sox offense was at least proactive about manufacturing runs. A Tyler Flowers solo home run opened up the scoring in the third inning and gave a nice start to his three-hit night, but Alex Rios drew attention by recognizing that he could absolutely not rely on the middle of the order to do anything. He singled to lead off the fourth inning, stole second, advanced to third on an errant throw, then sprinted home on a sacrifice fly to push the lead out to 2-0.
In the next inning, Gordon Beckham similarly scampered around the bases despite being the only player to hit a ball hard all inning. After ripping a leadoff single to left field, Beckham advanced to second base on a Jordan Danks dribbler to the pitcher, got to third on a Flowers ducksnort single and won a challenge of Coco Crisp’s arm to score on a shallow sacrifice fly.
After the soul-shaking grand slam, that ability to manufacture disappeared. Dayan Viciedo capped the sixth with an inning-ending double play, Beckham blew a well-earned leadoff walk in the seventh by taking off too soon on an attempt for second and getting tagged out, and the eight inning was something different entirely.
The Sox led off with Flowers and De Aza on first and second with no outs and failed to advance either. Alexei Ramirez–known terrible bunter–was called upon to bunt, seemingly against his will, and popped it out pitifully. Alex Rios followed it up with a more traditional pop-up in the infied, and by the time Adam Dunn actually lifted one beyond the dirt, there was nothing to gain from a routine fly out.
Just to twist the knife into Hawk as much as possible, Conor Gillaspie lifted a drive to the right field wall with one out in the ninth, only to have Josh Reddick leap up and snatch away what would have been a game-tying clout.
Team Record: 25-34
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