Cueto, Sox keeping 'heads up' after tough one

August 27th, 2022

CHICAGO -- Elvis Night officially took place on Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field, so let’s pay homage to The King’s vast body of historic work to describe a less than chart-topping White Sox performance during a 7-2 loss to the Diamondbacks.

After falling behind 6-0 in the second inning with the seemingly invincible Johnny Cueto on the mound, the White Sox wanted to Return this series and homestand opener To Sender. And with 36 games remaining on the schedule, it’s really Now or Never for the White Sox if they want to catch the Guardians and the Twins in the American League Central.

The 33,054 fans in attendance expressed a feeling closer to never, as loud boos crescendoed throughout the stadium after Adam Engel’s game-ending groundout.

“They came to see us win a ballgame and we got beat. Most of the game it was lopsided, right?” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa, addressing the fans’ frustration with a very pragmatic response. “They have every right to be upset -- at the team, management, whatever. They've got every right to do it.

“I'm just saying, the fact that they were here and they did say, 'Let's go White Sox,' is amazing. It's amazing fan support here, and I've got plenty of experience. But there ain't no free lunch. It's a two-way relationship. They support you and you've got to give back. So we've got to do more about giving back."

In support of La Russa’s statement, the crowd was loud and excited when AJ Pollock connected for a one-out home run in the ninth. That blast to center cut the lead from six to five.

It was just 10 days ago when Chicago pulled off a second straight late-inning comeback against the American League's best squad in Houston and raised its record to 61-56. Friday’s loss dropped the White Sox to 2-7 in their last nine, including Thursday’s heartbreaker in Baltimore, and sent them back to third place with a 63-63 ledger.

Frustration is not only reserved for the passionate White Sox fans. But as of Aug. 26, the White Sox are who they appear to be -- a preseason World Series pick playing like a break-even team.

“That's why yesterday was really a tough one, because plus-three or plus-one,” La Russa said. “But you've got to let the season take its course. Got a taste of it last year: if you win here, it will be as good or better as any place else. Right now we're at .500. Our goal is to win the series. That means we've got to win tomorrow."

“We have to keep our heads up, just like the horses,” said Cueto through interpreter Billy Russo. “Head up and keep moving forward. Keep grinding.”

Cueto entered Friday as one of the best stories in baseball this season, let alone one of the best White Sox stories, but this was a rare rough outing. The right-hander had a chance to escape the second with just one run allowed, but he walked nine-hole hitter Geraldo Perdomo to load the bases with two outs. He then yielded a three-run double to Josh Rojas followed by a long two-run home run to Emmanuel Rivera.

Arizona scored seven runs off Cueto in five innings after he allowed six total over his previous 30 2/3 frames in August. Cueto chalked up the struggles to simply a bad night.

“Nothing specific. It’s not an excuse,” Cueto said. “It was just a bad outing. I’m a human being, too. And it happens.”

“It’s just as simple as something he’s been outstanding at is getting the third out,” La Russa said. “Think about it: He pops up the catcher, and he walks Perdomo. The next guy gets a double and a home run and that’s five runs. That’s really one of his strengths. After that, he started dealing.”

Alek Thomas, the son of Allen Thomas, former White Sox director of conditioning, made a triumphant return to the field where he used to work out via a sacrifice fly and two great defensive plays in center. The White Sox might have implored him to Don’t Be Cruel to his former friends, but they need to soon put together a significant win streak if they want to silence some Suspicious Minds concerning their playoff chances.

“I counted 10 hard-hit balls [for the White Sox], but they played an excellent defensive game,” La Russa said. “We should have had, the score should have been better, closer.”