White Sox stay determined amid tough season-opening skid

Banks' solid outing provides silver lining, while Chicago's bats still struggling with men on

April 9th, 2024

CLEVELAND -- For three minutes on Monday afternoon, the totality of the solar eclipse hit Cleveland, creating a calm, eerily quiet scene at Progressive Field.

Not long after, the White Sox offense spent two hours and 35 minutes recreating that stillness, as they only recorded four hits in a 4-0 loss to the Guardians.

The loss drops Chicago to 1-9, which is tied with Miami for the worst record in baseball.

“We have 152 games left,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “The record’s not good. You can’t hide from the record; it’s not good. But how are you not going to stay in a good place mentally when you’ve got 152 games left? If you’re not in a good place mentally, you’re going to have a long season.”

The Sox offense, which has been stuck in neutral for most of the season, strung together some good at-bats early off Guardians starter Triston McKenzie and got a runner to second base in both the first and second inning, but failed to make the most of either opportunity.

Chicago nearly got to McKenzie in the fifth inning when a wild pitch put runners at second and third with two outs, but Cleveland's starter was able to get Yoán Moncada to ground out and end the threat.

“We hit some balls hard, but we’ve still got to hit with runners in scoring position,” Grifol said. “I’ve seen streaks like this on the offensive side. We’ve just got to continue to battle through and get out of it.”

Through their first 10 games, the White Sox have only managed to score 16 runs, which is the lowest in baseball. Chicago also has a .190 team batting average (tied for second-lowest in baseball as of the end of Monday's game), .267 on-base percentage (lowest) and .570 OPS (lowest). All in all, big hits remain tough to come by as the White Sox try to overcome injuries to top hitters Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert Jr.

“I wish there was a magic switch we could turn on,” second baseman Nicky Lopez said. “But we have to keep attacking it and keep just attacking it every day and try to get better. No one wants to do this, no one wants to go through this stuff and struggle. But we have to do it again tomorrow.”

One of the lone bright spots for the White Sox came in the form of opener Tanner Banks, who pitched 2 1/3 innings to start the game. Banks tied his career high with five strikeouts, but was dealt a tough-luck loss after he allowed a run in the third inning. Banks opened the frame by giving up a double to Andrés Giménez before Austin Hedges ripped a liner that hit off Banks' wrist and was caught by Lopez.

Cleveland's first run came across one batter later when Giménez scored from second on an error by Braden Shewmake.

“[I’m] just trying to do my best in every opportunity, whether it's opening or starting or long relief or closing a game,” Banks said. “Doing whatever I can to put the team in the best place to win.”

Prior to the game, Grifol talked about how he was done putting limitations on Banks because he always ended up exceeding them, and he felt that Monday’s outing was another example of that.

“Banks did a really good job of starting the game,” Grifol said. “He worked really fast and threw a ton of strikes.”

Still, that doesn’t take away from the sting of the past week and a half. The Sox have now been shut out in four of their past 10 games, and are batting .091 (5-for-55) with runners in scoring position after going 0-for-7 on Monday. They also had three errors, two of which came from Moncada.

“This team is going to be based on pitching and defense,” Grifol said. “We’ve got to make sure we clean up those mistakes, and we will, and we’ve got to win these tight ball games.”

For Lopez, that change can come by focusing on taking things one day at a time, which can be tough in the early part of the season.

“We’re just going through a tough stretch,” Lopez said, “and it just so happens it’s in April where everything is magnified.”