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White Sox can't end pitching woes against Rays

Santana goes 3 2/3 innings in debut as Chicago drops 4th straight
@scottmerkin
April 9, 2019

CHICAGO – The White Sox had high expectations for the 2019 season coming into Year 3 of their rebuild, a point manager Rick Renteria stressed and hadn’t altered after a 10-5 loss to the Rays on Tuesday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. It marked the fourth straight defeat for the

CHICAGO – The White Sox had high expectations for the 2019 season coming into Year 3 of their rebuild, a point manager Rick Renteria stressed and hadn’t altered after a 10-5 loss to the Rays on Tuesday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.

It marked the fourth straight defeat for the South Siders, who slipped to 3-7, and the fifth straight rough start from their rotation. Even 10 games into the campaign, the team was dissatisfied enough to have a little clubhouse talk following the latest setback.

“We got together, and we talked about the things that are happening and how we can try to improve,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo. “Every one of us is trying to do our best. Baseball is not an easy sport and that's why you need to stick together. You need to be united and believe in each other.”

“At this point, are we disappointed? A little bit. Absolutely,” Renteria said. “They are a little disappointed as well. They are not guys who are wanting to have had the start we are having right now.”

As a whole, the White Sox offense has not been bad. Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson have enjoyed hot starts with the potential to turn into breakout seasons, while Leury Garcia and Eloy Jimenez also are getting on base fairly consistently. But Chicago's pitching has been little off the mark.

The White Sox starting rotation opened this season with three quality starts in five games. That run included Lucas Giolito taking a no-hitter into the seventh at Kauffman Stadium on March 31 and Ivan Nova allowing one run over seven innings in Cleveland on the ensuing day.

That beginning success didn’t last, taking another direct hit on Tuesday with Ervin Santana working 3 2/3 innings in his White Sox debut. Chicago’s starters have allowed 29 runs over their past 20 innings, and only one starter has lasted at least five innings during that five-start run, with Reynaldo Lopez earning that dubious honor in Friday’s home opener.

A White Sox bullpen ranking 25th with a 6.39 ERA and 23rd with a 1.58 WHIP entering Tuesday is getting overtaxed. Manny Banuelos saved the ‘pen again, throwing 49 pitches over 3 1/3 scoreless innings, but Jace Fry had to throw 46 pitches during a two-run ninth to conserve arms.

“We're having a little bit of trouble commanding the strike zone,” Renteria said. “When we fall behind a lot, especially in relief, you put yourself in a vulnerable position. These guys are young, but that to me doesn't matter.”

Santana gave up seven runs on seven hits, walking three and striking out one. The Rays hit three home runs off the right-hander, including Avisail Garcia’s blast in the second in his return to Chicago, meaning Santana has yielded 12 long balls over his last 28 1/3 innings dating to last season. In all fairness to Santana, he was coming back from surgery on the middle finger of his pitching hand in 2018 and looked a bit rusty Tuesday.

“It was not good, not at all,” Santana said. “Especially because our bullpen is tired, and I should do better than today.”

To the White Sox credit, they had the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth before pinch-hitter Adam Engel struck out with the bases loaded. But it’s tough for the offense to continue fighting back, one of the trends the club wants to reverse, even early in the season.

“In order for us to improve, we need to start playing better,” Abreu said. “In order to start playing better, we need to play together. Be a team and be strong as a team. We have a lot of talent here. I believe in this team and that's why I still believe we have high expectations. But definitely, we can do better.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.