KANSAS CITY -- This was not how the second half of the season was supposed to start for the White Sox. Not even close.
In fact, take the worst-case scenario imaginable, go a rung or two below, and that’s where the White Sox are sitting following an 11-0 whitewash at the hands of the Royals on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
“That was an ugly one, no other way to describe it,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We've played better than that. Today was not very good. Not a very well-played ballgame.”
The fifth straight loss at the outset of this 10-game road trip came with an extra gut punch. White Sox left fielder Eloy Jiménez, the American League rookie leader with 17 home runs, departed in the first inning with right elbow soreness after colliding with center fielder Charles Tilson, who caught Whit Merrifield’s fly ball.
Making his first start since winning his Major League debut on July 3, the right-hander allowed six runs on eight hits over six innings. But his effort was better than the final numbers, as Cease struck out seven, including four in the last two frames, and issued just one free pass.
“For the most part I actually felt pretty good,” said Cease, who worked his pitch count up to 108, had 12 swinging strikes and topped out at 97.5 mph per Statcast. “One walk is huge. I felt like I had a better feel than I've had most of the year, actually. Probably after the third, I felt like I got in a decent rhythm. I felt pretty solid all day.”
“The numbers in this instance would be extremely deceiving about his outing,” Renteria said. “I thought he did a nice job. We had a positive out of Dylan Cease’s outing.”
Only four of Cease’s runs allowed were earned, as the White Sox committed three errors (one on a pickoff throw by Cease) and had two other questionable plays in the outfield in the fourth. With one out, Cam Gallagher lined a double over the head of Tilson. Merrifield followed with a shot down the right-field line that Ryan Cordell made a diving effort at but missed on, allowing Gallagher to score and giving Merrifield the 100th inside-the-park homer in Royals history. Merrifield originally was ruled out at the plate, but the call was overturned by video review.
Glenn Sparkman hurled his first career shutout, becoming the second straight Royals pitcher to set a single-game high in strikeouts (eight) against the White Sox. Renteria’s crew knocked out five hits, all singles, meaning 35 of the last 40 White Sox hits have been singles. The club also dipped to 8-for-61 with runners in scoring position over the last nine games.
Oakland and Kansas City have outscored the White Sox by a combined 37-7 margin since the start of the second half, which is a strange, bordering on mind-boggling, turnaround compared to Chicago’s 42-44 first-half success. It’s important to remember the White Sox remain in the third season of a rebuild, and this type of failure happens to even the best of teams. But the White Sox have not been truly good in any facet of the game since the All-Star break.
Renteria didn’t hold batting practice prior to Tuesday’s game, giving his guys a chance to regroup. That plan didn’t quite work, as the White Sox look to get back on good footing after falling seven games under .500 for the first time this season.
“Nobody wanted to see it after the All-Star break because you wanted to keep the momentum going and keep playing good ball,” Renteria said. “We still have plenty of season left to continue to try to improve on the things that we've been working on. We've had some roster changes, so we'll continue to deal with those. And keep going.”