CINCINNATI -- The White Sox are on the back end of a stretch of 13 straight games without an off-day. With a taxed bullpen, a lengthy outing from starter Dylan Covey would've gone a long way in replenishing their pitching staff, but a six-run fourth inning by the Reds spelled trouble for Chicago in a 7-4 loss to drop the series at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday.
For a moment, it appeared Covey might provide just what the doctor ordered as he put up three perfect innings to begin the game. The offense backed him by spotting him a 3-0 lead on home runs from Yoan Moncada and Daniel Palka in the first two innings.
Moncada is swinging the bat well for the White Sox. He went 6-for-15 this series with two doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBIs. He said he thinks he has learned a lot over the course of the last year since being called back up to the Major Leagues.
"I have been more aggressive with pitches in the strike zone," Moncada said. "Like I said, I feel like that has been part of the adjustment process I have been doing with my offense."
But things came unglued in the fourth as six consecutive Reds reached base and eventually ousted Covey from the game after just 3 2/3 innings. Scott Schebler led off with a walk and Joey Votto singled two batters later. A Scooter Gennett base hit brought in a run and another from Eugenio Suarez loaded the bases. Cincinnati tied the game when Jesse Winker shot one back up the middle for a two-run single. After Covey hit Adam Duvall, Jose Peraza hit a two-run single to become the sixth straight Red to reach base. Cincinnati starter Sal Romano got in on the fun with a suicide squeeze play to bring in the sixth and final run of the inning.That was the last hitter Covey faced. He allowed the six runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
"Had really good action," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "The kind of action we like. You guys have seen it. His ball is kinda heavy, he's got good action coming down. He mentioned he felt he flattened out a little bit. His ball didn't have the same action in that inning as it was developing."
Covey mentioned he struggled to keep the ball down against the heart of the Reds' order, and Cincinnati made him pay on a tough night to pitch in humid conditions. Covey thinks lack of command contributed to his struggles more than anything else.
"Obviously, leadoff walk, never want that," Covey said. "Then I was trying to get a ground ball from there on out, and I was just leaving pitches elevated. I was trying to make an adjustment, and it seems like the ones they were staying on were just elevated, and it's not my game."
Covey got off to a fast start when he was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on May 19 and went 3-0 in his first five starts, but he has struggled a bit in his past four starts and did not see the sixth inning in any of them.
"Still confident," Covey said. "When I'm making the right pitches and throwing the ball how I know I can, I get the results that I want. It's just when I try to do too much out there, I think that the ball gets elevated and flattens out a little bit and just is easier for them to hit."
For as much mileage Chicago has put on its 'pen during this stretch, it collectively held its own after Covey's early departure. Luis Avilan, Bruce Rondon and Xavier Cedeno combined to put zeros on the board the next three innings until a Chris Volstad error in the eighth brought another run across, but the White Sox couldn't muster any additional offense aside from a run in the top of the fifth on a Yolmer Sanchez RBI double.
"I got a great effort from all those guys," Renteria said. "Even having to go to get Juan Minaya to get the one out. They're taxed. We're trying to do everything we can to spell them."
The White Sox put the leadoff runners on in the sixth and seventh innings, and put the tying run aboard in the eighth, but could not push a run across off of Michael Lorenzen or Jared Hughes, who relieved Romano after five innings.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The White Sox best chance at mounting a comeback undoubtedly came in the eighth inning. Jose Abreu drew a one-out walk off Lorenzen, who was pulled in favor of Hughes. Hughes walked Avisail Garcia to put the tying run on base for Palka, who homered three times in the last two games. Hughes offered three straight sinkers to Palka, who whiffed at two of them and struck out on three pitches. Leury Garcia pinch-hit in the pitcher's slot and ripped a base hit back up the middle, but Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton delivered a strike to retire a hobbled Abreu at the plate to end the inning.
"Those guys came in and kept us right there," Renteria said. "We just weren't able to score enough runs to overcome the deficit."
The White Sox finish off this 10-game road trip with a four-game set against the Astros beginning at 7:10 p.m. CT Thursday. Carlos Rodon will take the mound for Chicago in the series opener. The left-hander gave up five earned runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings his last time out against the Rangers. Rodon is 1-3 with a 4.55 ERA in five starts since being activated off the 60-day disabled list on June 9. Justin Verlander will get the nod for Houston.