Mistakes costly as Cueto takes hard-luck loss

Right-hander deals for 6-plus strong innings, but White Sox blanked in Seattle

September 7th, 2022

SEATTLE -- Everything is magnified when you’re in the thick of September and you still have a chance at the postseason.

The White Sox found that out the hard way in a 3-0 loss to the Mariners on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park that came down to a tough and timely early error and a few mistakes late. Despite a brilliant outing from resurgent veteran starter Johnny Cueto, Chicago couldn’t find a way to make up for the miscues.

“It just happens, you know?” White Sox acting manager Miguel Cairo said. “We played really good. They just scored more than us. We didn't score today. They were into the game, and it was a good battle.”

The first mistake happened in the bottom of the fourth inning in the midst of a scoreless tie. Ty France led off with a double down the right-field line that might have been a single if not for the ball clipping the short wall and making a sharp left turn, causing right fielder Gavin Sheets to pull up and change his route to the ball.

The next batter, Mitch Haniger, lofted a high fly ball toward Sheets, and it was deep enough that the catch allowed France to tag up and take third base. But Sheets’ throw was off line, and it got past third baseman Yoán Moncada and Cueto, who was backing up on the play. The ball skittered away and hit a television camera inside the camera well. France was awarded an extra base, Sheets was given an error and the Mariners had enough offense to end up winning.

Seattle added two insurance runs in the eighth, when Chicago reliever Reynaldo López issued a two-out walk to Sam Haggerty and then gave up a home run to Cal Raleigh.

Cairo offered a knowing smile when asked why Yasmani Grandal didn’t swing at a called hit-and-run pitch with a runner on first base and nobody out in the seventh, which led to Adam Engel getting thrown out stealing.

“That’s part of the game,” Cairo said. “That’s part of the game.”

Despite the defeat, the White Sox showed the resilience and toughness that have led them through a solid past few weeks.

Cueto continued to be a revelation in the rotation, for example. His fastball didn’t get any faster than 93 mph, but he kept Mariners hitters off-balance with his ever-changing deliveries, battle-tested moxie and five-pitch arsenal.

Cueto pitched out of trouble, particularly in the second, when he stranded two runners by inducing a double play against Adam Frazier. In the fifth, when a hit-by-pitch and a passed ball put Jake Lamb on second base with one out, Cueto got J.P. Crawford to bounce into a fielder’s choice that got Lamb at third, and Julio Rodríguez popped out to second base to end that threat.

Cueto was chased in the seventh after giving up a single and a walk. His six-plus innings of one-run ball lowered his season ERA to 2.87 and gave him 10 consecutive quality starts on the road.

“I wasn't aware of that,” Cueto said through an interpreter. “But every time I go out there, I’m trying to throw seven innings, so I guess I’m doing my job.”

More good news for the White Sox came in the form of Moncada, who made his first start since returning from the injured list and went 2-for-4 with a pair of crisp singles off Mariners starter Logan Gilbert, who pitched six innings and struck out nine. Moncada had been out since Aug. 25 because of a strained left hamstring.

But the White Sox continued to watch Luis Robert struggle with left hand/wrist issues that forced him to miss a handful of games in the past couple of weeks. Robert was removed from Tuesday’s game after striking out in the fifth on what looked like a one-handed swing.

In Robert’s first at-bat in the second, he was hit in the fingers of his left hand while swinging, according to Cairo, who visited Robert along with head trainer James Kruk. Robert stayed in the game until the fifth and was later diagnosed with a bruised left hand that will make his status day to day.

That’s how the White Sox are living right now: day to day.

Chicago fell back to .500 at 68-68, but it remains squarely in the hunt for October. Its loss and American League Central-leading Cleveland’s 4-1 win over Kansas City put the White Sox three games behind the Guardians in the division race. They are 7 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the third and final AL Wild Card spot.

“We are playing very good baseball,” Cueto said. “Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll come back and do it again. The team is high energy right now. Hopefully, we'll come back tomorrow and get a win.”