White Sox battle but come up short at Fenway
Rienzo allows five runs and walks four over three innings; club swept
BOSTON -- Those days of watching the American League Central or AL Wild Card standings pretty much passed by the start of July for the White Sox.
Checking out the 2014 order for the First-Year Player Draft stands as the only rankings worthy of present note. Following a 7-6 loss to the Red Sox before 37,053 on Sunday at Fenway Park, the White Sox (56-79) sit third behind the Astros and Marlins.
But for a team embarking on a reshaping process, or a team evaluating young players who could assist in a quicker turnaround, it's still important to play meaningful September baseball. Even in the midst of this three-game weekend sweep executed by the Red Sox (82-56), there are valuable lessons to be learned.
"Obviously, you look around this clubhouse, and we are pretty young," said White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie, who knocked in two during the series finale. "When you really think about it, we have a lot of guys that this is kind of their first go-around, myself included. The better off we do in September, it's going to get a lot of the guys like myself who are younger and hope to be playing here down the road a lot of confidence."
Sunday's setback didn't exactly stand as one of those confidence builders. It did have a little bit of everything mixed into the afternoon's storyline.
There were 11 walks issued by nine pitchers, with three of those runners scoring. There were four-run innings for each side. There was an apparent diving catch made by Gillaspie at third that turned into a two-run fourth for the Red Sox, and White Sox manager Robin Ventura got ejected for good measure.
Ultimately, all of this action produced the first time the White Sox were swept since Aug. 2-4 in Detroit. Those three defeats completed a 10-game losing streak for the South Siders.
The biggest moment of controversy came in the fourth with Jacoby Ellsbury on third, one out and Charlie Leesman on the mound in the midst of his Major League relief debut covering 4 1/3 solid if not spectacular innings. Dustin Pedroia ripped a shot that Gillaspie appeared to make a nice diving catch on as he moved toward the line, and the ball then came loose and hit the ground as he quickly tried to crawl toward third to double off Ellsbury.
Third-base umpire Paul Nauert ruled from the start that it was no catch, so Gillaspie had to complete the play at first for the out. His throw was errant to Jeff Keppinger, who was moving back to cover the base, and the hit and error allowed Ellsbury to score and Pedroia to take second. Pedroia then scored on David Ortiz's single to center.
Ventura argued the call with Nauert and the argument continued until crew chief Dana DeMuth ejected Ventura. It was Ventura's seventh career ejection and third this season.
White Sox rookie right-hander Andre Rienzo (1-1) took his first Major League loss but struggled through a second straight start, allowing five runs on five hits over three innings. He walked four and struck out three, giving him 10 earned runs allowed on 12 hits over his past nine innings, with seven walks and seven strikeouts.
As an important part of that often steep learning curve, Rienzo stepped up postgame and took the blame for the loss. He also understands that issuing free passes and consistently working behind in the count is not the road traveled to pitching success.
"Everybody [saw] how trashy my game was today. I did really bad and I didn't give the team a chance to win. It was completely my fault," said Rienzo, who threw only 43 of 77 pitches for strikes. "I still feel good. Just little things didn't work. They are working for the other team, but they didn't work for me. I'll just keep on working for the next one."
Trailing by a 5-0 margin, the White Sox rallied for four runs on five hits off of Boston starter Felix Doubront in the fourth. Dayan Viciedo doubled home one run with a blast off the Green Monster and Gillaspie singled home two.
Alexei Ramirez topped the White Sox offense with three hits, two runs scored and two stolen bases, giving him 29 steals. Paul Konerko added two hits and an RBI, while Tyler Flowers capped the White Sox scoring with a monstrous blast well over the Green Monster off of Craig Breslow in the eighth for his 10th homer and second hit of the afternoon, before Koji Uehara (16th save) closed out the win.
"Today, when Felix ran into a long fourth inning, our bullpen picked him up and picked us up," Boston manager John Farrell said. "We were able to piece this game together."
Ventura plans to stick with Rienzo, who would face Baltimore next weekend, but he added that there are other options for starts such as Leesman, Dylan Axelrod and potentially Erik Johnson, if he is called up from Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday. The White Sox want to win in September, but they also will be exploring all available options.
"Nothing is guaranteed for guys just getting here," Ventura said. "We have some young guys who will have to learn while they're here. Sometimes it doesn't look pretty and you have to learn from it and keep going. That's for us to keep preaching and making it get better."