CHICAGO -- The good news for the White Sox this week is they split a four-game series with the Astros, who are the American League’s best team.
But the bad news is the White Sox (61-58) won the first two games of the series in thrilling fashion, only to lose the final two. There was nothing thrilling about Thursday’s 21-5 loss, unless, of course, you play or root for the Astros (77-43).
“That’s a brutal afternoon,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “Yesterday’s game, we had a chance and we didn’t get it. Be thankful for the two, but when you win the first two, you want more. We have to stay hungry and we were yesterday, but today, it got away early.”
"It's disappointing. Tough way to lose. That's all I got,” White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said. “Obviously, I didn't do my job. It was pretty terrible.”
Giolito (9-7) matched a season-low with three innings pitched, though he pitched to the first three batters in what became a six-run fourth. He allowed seven earned runs on eight hits while striking out five, raising his season ERA to 5.34, which is more commensurate with his rough 2018 campaign than his three straight standout seasons since.
La Russa pointed to location as an issue for Giolito. The struggles went beyond location in Giolito’s mind.
“I didn't think my stuff was very good either, but I missed locations and they hit it hard. That's generally the story of how it went,” Giolito said. “You have to locate, and I didn't do that. A lot of fastballs trying to go in and missing middle, stuff like that -- and they didn't miss. Gave up a lot of runs."
“You take the ball 30-some times and you are going to have a day where it just doesn’t work,” La Russa said. “That was today. For him, you have an offense like that, it makes you pay early and often.”
Houston’s 21 runs and 25 hits were season highs allowed by the White Sox. It was the seventh time in franchise history the White Sox allowed at least 21 runs and it fell one shy of the club worst of 22 from July 26, 1931, against the Yankees. The 25 hits are also tied for the second-most allowed by White Sox pitchers, with 26 being the record (Philadelphia, 1932).
This lost afternoon ended with Josh Harrison, the starting second baseman, allowing four runs on six hits in a 28-pitch ninth inning in a position-player-pitching role that La Russa detests.
“We made a freaking statement. We have a good offense,” said Houston center fielder Chas McCormick, who had three hits, five RBIs and one of the team’s four home runs. “They’re a good team. We were a little upset that they beat us the first two times. We got a good win yesterday, and coming in today, we didn’t want to lose the series. We did a good job hitting and it showed how our offense is today.”
So this is the glass-half-empty side for the White Sox, or maybe that glass darn well spilled. But there is a little bit of a half-full side.
Vince Velasquez and José Ruiz combined to throw five innings and 96 pitches before Harrison finished it off, leaving the White Sox bullpen completely fresh for this weekend’s important series in Cleveland. Gavin Sheets knocked out four hits and Yoán Moncada went deep, while the team lost just one-half game to Cleveland and Minnesota in the standings.
Entering the three-game set at Progressive Field, the White Sox are 2 1/2 games behind the American League Central-leading Guardians (63-55) and 1 1/2 games behind the second-place Twins (61-55).
Even if Chicago had won by a score of 21-5, it would have looked at that big effort as just one game, much like the White Sox are doing with this tough loss.
“Five in a row was huge for us,” said Sheets of the winning streak that ended on Wednesday. “Two tough ones, but get right back on it. “
“They beat us up. They deserve the credit,” La Russa said. “We take the heat. That’s what I’m doing now before turning the page on to Cleveland.”
Even with that turn-the-page mentality, La Russa still viewed the Houston series as “disappointing” after winning the first two games.
“It just wasn’t a good day for the White Sox,” La Russa said. “We split with those guys, who are really good, and now let’s take care of business in Cleveland.”