CHICAGO -- Heading into Wednesday's finale vs. the Mariners, the White Sox had a chance to win just their second series of the season. Chicago swept a weather-shortened two-game set from the Royals in March, but had dropped every series since, including sweeps by the Tigers, A's and Astros.So the
CHICAGO -- Heading into Wednesday's finale vs. the Mariners, the White Sox had a chance to win just their second series of the season. Chicago swept a weather-shortened two-game set from the Royals in March, but had dropped every series since, including sweeps by the Tigers, A's and Astros.
So the stakes were higher in the White Sox first rubber game of the season, and they appeared up to the challenge early. However, a costly mistake by James Shields -- a Mike Zunino solo home run in the sixth inning -- sank the Sox, 4-3.
"It was right where I wanted to throw it on a 3-2 count," Shields said of the home run pitch to Zunino. "He just put a good swing on it. He's strong. You gotta give him credit for that, but at the end of the day I've gotta get my job done."
Having now lost six straight series, the White Sox are off to their worst start since 1950 at 5-16.
Chicago jumped all over Felix Hernandez from the get-go, with Yoan Moncada parking the righty's first pitch over the right-field fence for his first career leadoff home run. Yolmer Sanchez followed with a ground-rule double on the next pitch, eventually coming around to give the White Sox an early 2-0 lead.
The Mariners clawed back for two runs in the third, but the White Sox answered immediately in the bottom half of the frame thanks to Daniel Palka's first career RBI -- a bases-loaded groundout back to the pitcher. Fans gave Palka a hearty ovation for the milestone.
Hernandez wasn't dominating the White Sox early, as the hosts had plenty of chances to chase the former Cy Young Award winner. But Chicago notched just one hit off Hernandez after the third inning, and when the Sox managed to get two on in the fifth, Tim Anderson grounded into a double play.
"The focus and the way we've been going about playing the game has been better, there's no doubt about it," manager Rick Renteria said. "These were some closer ballgames, the kind of games we'd like to have where we've at least got a chance.
"Going into the ninth inning down by a run, I'll take that any time. I wish we would take the lead into the ninth, but I'll take being within striking distance any time the way we're able to contain and minimize damage."
Earlier in the fifth, Nelson Cruz had tied the game at 3 with an RBI single shortly after being checked out by the Seattle trainers at home plate. Shields then served up the Zunino home run the next inning, and the White Sox were unable to muster any offense against the Mariners' bullpen in a one-run game.
Juan Nicasio, the Mariners' set-up man, and Edwin Diaz, their closer, combined to retire all 12 batters they faced this series, striking out eight.
"They do have an exceptional bullpen," Renteria said. "Kind of tough to get anything going against them. Not impossible, but they're very good."
The White Sox now head to where they played their best baseball of the year in Kansas City. Chicago outscored the Royals 18-10 in their two-game series and hit seven home runs.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Mariners made a serious push for insurance runs in the seventh against Gregory Infante, after Jean Segura began the inning with an infield single. Following a Robinson Cano walk, Segura found himself too far off second base. Moncada and Infante put on a sneaky pickoff play, nabbing Segura for the first out of the inning. Given that the batter, Cruz, doubled in that at-bat, the pickoff proved pivotal in preventing the White Sox from falling too far behind.
Jose Abreu left Wednesday's game in the fourth inning with flu-like symptoms and is day to day. Renteria said he had offered Abreu the day off, but Abreu wanted to try to fight through the illness.
HE SAID IT
"Right now, as you see, we've mixed and matched him with Timmy [Anderson] now the last two or three days maybe to give him the best chance to have the most positive outcomes possible. We know that right now against righties, he's very, very good. And right now he's working on improving his approaches against left-handed pitchers. ... At some point, I'm sure it will be defined as to [how good he is from both sides as a switch-hitter], and if he's going to be ultimately a leadoff hitter from both sides of the plate against anybody. His eye says to me that he's capable of doing that." -- Renteria, on Moncada's future as a leadoff hitter
In the ninth inning, Cano hit a slow ground ball to third with one out. Sanchez ranged to his left to field it and fired to first baseman Matt Davidson, but the throw pulled Davidson slightly off the bag and Cano was called safe. The White Sox challenged the call, but after a 1-minute, 17-second review, the call stood, giving the Mariners a chance for an extra insurance run.
The White Sox head to Kansas City to open a five-game, four-day series Thursday at 7:15 p.m. CT. Lucas Giolito (0-3, 9.00 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season and second against the Royals. Giolito struggled mightily his last time out against the Astros, giving up nine runs in two-plus innings. Jakob Junis is set to take the mound for the Royals.
** Max Gelman ** is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.