Chicago White Sox: It isn’t time to hit that dreaded panic button yet

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 01: Justin Upton #10 of the Los Angeles Angels hits an hits an RBI single against the Chicago White Sox during the fourth inning on Opening Day at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 01, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 01: Justin Upton #10 of the Los Angeles Angels hits an hits an RBI single against the Chicago White Sox during the fourth inning on Opening Day at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 01, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

The matchup on the mound was an exciting one to end the series. Shohei Ohtani took the mound for the Los Angeles Angels. He also worked out of the second spot in the batting order for the first time in his career. Chicago White Sox starter Dylan Cease made his long-awaited start after revamping his mechanics this offseason with new pitching coach Ethan Katz.

The White Sox did not look good in Sunday’s matchup. The game did not start well after Tim Anderson went down in the first inning running to first base with what the organization described as hamstring tightness. Anderson is considered day-to-day and will most likely be out the next few games. We’ll likely see Leury Garcia or Jake Lamb take some reps over at shortstop in Anderson’s absence.

Early on, we did not see a revamped Dylan Cease. We saw him continue to be shaky with his control by pitching himself into multiple full counts. He also gave up a 451-foot home run to Ohtani and back-to-back singles to Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. He then walked Jared Walsh to load the bases with only one out. It took Cease 30 pitches to get out of the first inning and the Sox faced an early 2-0 deficit.

One of the Sox early bright spots, Yermin Mercedes, cooled off a bit in the final game of the series. The DH went 1-5 with a single and two strikeouts. The offense has just not been there from many of the everyday players. Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Adam Eaton, and Yasmai Grandal all have batting averages of .250 or below within the first four games. Moncada has yet to get a hit since the first game of the season.

The team only managed to have five hits yet still put up 4 runs thanks to shaky control from Ohtani and throwing errors from the Angels’ defense. In the top of the fifth, Garcia scored on a wild pitch allowing Eaton and Abreu to advance.  In the following at-bat, Moncada struck out but managed to make it to first safely on a dropped third strike. A throwing error from Max Stassi resulted in Eaton and Abreu scoring on the same play to tie the game at three apiece.

Coming into Sunday night’s game, the White Sox had led in the eighth inning in the two games they had lost so far. The bullpen and defense failed to stop the Angels’ offense. We saw that once again on Sunday night after Manager Tony La Russa played the matchup with Angels’ first baseman Jared Walsh, bringing in Cody Heuer in the bottom of the fifth to relieve Cease.  Walsh immediately made the Sox pay after hitting a 400 foot home run to rightfield.

After allowing the two hits in the bottom of the fifth, the Sox bullpen was able to limit the Angels’ offense to only one hit heading into the ninth inning. The Sox offense seemed more alive in the second half of the game as they had three of their five hits in the second half of the game, were much more aggressive on the base paths, and put themselves in more opportunities to score.

In the top of the ninth inning, Madrigal was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Garcia moved him into scoring position after sacrificing to the pitcher. Adam Eaton followed up by hitting into a fielder’s choice that resulted in yet another throwing error for the Angels that allowed Madrigal to come all the way around and tie the game at four apiece. The Sox had another man in scoring position but Abreu struck out, Moncada drew a walk, and Mercedes flew out to center to end the inning which put a halt to the Sox momentum.

Heading into the bottom of the ninth, La Russa opted to leave in reliever Jose Ruiz after pitching a perfect eighth inning. Ruiz gave up a leadoff single to Dexter Fowler and La Russa brought in Matt Foster to try and shut the door. He started well by striking out Trout. He then walked Rendon on six pitches bringing Walsh to the plate. Walsh was able to get ahead in the count at 3-1 when Foster made the mistake of leaving a hittable fastball in the zone for Walsh. He made Foster pay by hitting a three-run home run to walk it off.

It is early, but the Sox have a lot of cleaning up to do in all aspects of the game. Offensively their approach seems off. Many seem to be pressing. Defensively, the Sox have had many mistakes over their first few games. From flyballs bouncing off heads to errant throws from the middle infielders, it has not looked good. The Sox have to clean themselves up defensively if they are going to want to compete.

As far as the bullpen goes, it is still early there as well. La Russa still needs to figure out which guys are best for certain roles and that will take some time. It hasn’t helped that besides Giolito in game one, none of the Sox starters were able to make it out of the fifth inning.

It is still too early to hit the panic button as the team has played about two percent of their schedule. The White Sox are a much better team than what they showed this weekend. Given some time, the team will iron out their early issues and play as expected.

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Even without Anderson in the lineup, expect the team to play better in all aspects starting this week in Seattle as the offense still has enough firepower to win games. The three-game series starts Monday night, and the probable starters for the series are Carlos Rodon in game one, Giolito in game two, and Keuchel in game three.