CHICAGO -- Falling behind by three runs to a pitcher of Shane Bieber’s Cy Young caliber clearly wasn’t the plan for the White Sox during their 5-3 loss to Cleveland on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.
But the White Sox offense didn’t shut down when trailing by a 4-1 margin in the third, and starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel bounced back nicely after that four-run inning for Cleveland. The White Sox actually scored as many runs in three innings against Bieber on Friday (three) as they had in the previous 20 head-to-head innings covering three starts over the last two seasons.
“Scoring three against one of the league's best pitchers certainly doesn't count in my mind as an offense that wasn't taking good at-bats and making things happen,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “Our offense worked hard to get the three runs and tried to get more."
“I think we handled him pretty well,” said White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who finished 2-for-5 with two stolen bases. “We stuck with our plans, and we were able to scratch away and kind of keep that game close. Guys came up with some huge hits and some great baserunning."
Keuchel issued two of his four walks to Cesar Hernandez and Jordan Luplow to load the bases with one out in the third, followed by José Ramirez’s two-run single, Franmil Reyes’ run-scoring groundout and Eddie Rosario’s RBI single. That uprising erased a 1-0 White Sox lead produced by Luis Robert’s double scoring Yermín Mercedes, the rookie designated hitter who finished an astonishing April hitting .415. Keuchel retired 10 of the next 11 hitters before being replaced by Aaron Bummer in the seventh, with Keuchel striking out four, walking four and allowing four hits.
“Early on we didn't necessarily lay off his changeup, but we laid off the ball down,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona of facing Keuchel, who lost to Cleveland for the first time since May 19, 2018, at Minute Maid Park. “And then, when we scored our four, we kind of got a little away from that after that. At least we did that one inning, we laid off enough where we could string some hits together.”
With a game-time temperature of 48 degrees, preceding two days in the 80s to finish this weekend, Keuchel lost feel for his pitches in that third.
“Outside of some lost feel in the third inning, I think we come out of that game with a win,” Keuchel said. “You can’t do that in the big leagues, and I paid the price for it and, ultimately, we lost. As much as I felt good tonight, it was just very frustrating there for about 10, 12 pitches in the third, so that was it.
“I was probably subconsciously thinking about making a quality pitch behind in the count too much. But nights like tonight when it’s really chilly and you’re not trying to stay out there very long, honestly doing a lot more between innings, trying to keep your body loose and warm, so that way you don’t do anything stupid on the mound and have to come out of the game. After that I just told myself, ‘Hey, we scratched a few runs across on Bieber and we still got a shot at this thing, so I’m going to attack the zone more so than I usually do.’”
According to Statcast, Keuchel induced seven swings and misses among his 85 pitches. He felt fortunate to get through six, but felt “very frustrated” at the same time.
Bieber was outstanding yet again, striking out 11 over six, giving him 68 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings this season and 22 strikeouts over two starts at Guaranteed Rate Field since April 13. The White Sox closed out April with a 14-11 mark, sitting in second place in the American League Central after an 8-3 stretch heading into May.
“Just keep rallying around each other, keep being great teammates and keep competing at a high level,” Anderson said. “We go out there every night and lay it all on the line and try to get a win. I know we're in a good spot, we've just got to keep pushing. It's a long season, and that's just one month."