Manager Tony La Russa avoided talk of the future at such a late hour, instead choosing to focus upon the series-deciding loss to Boston. But after allowing six earned runs on seven hits in two innings, putting the White Sox in a 6-0 hole, Keuchel was frustrated but still confident his time in the rotation is far from done.
“I've got to do my job. That's first and foremost,” Keuchel said. “If I don't do my job then I'm the first to admit, you've got other options. I've afforded myself some leeway and I'm in no way, shape or form out of this thing. It's been a little bit of a rollercoaster the first month and change and the second half of last year outside of a couple injuries.
“If people want to write me off, that's OK. I've been written off before and I'm a competitor and I'm an athlete and we'll turn the tide. It's not the first time this has happened. It can turn right back into our favor."
After allowing two runs total over 11 innings in May starts at Fenway Park and at home against the Yankees, things have gone sideways in those last two trips to the mound against these same two teams. Keuchel gave up six runs in four innings at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, with a DJ LeMahieu grand slam doing much of the damage, and then yielded five hits to the first six hitters he faced Thursday.
Trevor Story lofted a three-run homer with two outs in the second, effectively ending Keuchel’s evening. Keuchel was not happy postgame with giving the bullpen seven innings to pick up after Dylan Cease got hit hard in Tuesday’s loss. He also wasn’t happy with the pace of the game he started, which finished in just over four hours.
“I just really wanted to come out and be the aggressor tonight, and it just seems like I wasn’t really able to get into a rhythm,” Keuchel said. “A few good pitches sprinkled in, but a lot of pitches out over the plate and a couple of cutters that really didn’t get to the spot that I wanted to.
“I’m feeling myself, so that is a frustrating aspect of the last two starts. I was really, really feeling like myself in Boston, and then against New York at home, so to take a couple steps back is very frustrating. I knew that they were going to be looking out over the plate, and just one of those things where the cutter, right now, has been the pitch that’s kind of snake-bitten for me. It’s like five out of six pitches are really good, and then the one that’s not really good is getting hit.”
Andrew Vaughn almost single-handedly brought the White Sox back with a three-run double and a two-run home run, setting a career-high with five RBIs. But the comeback dissolved in the late innings, with infielder Josh Harrison being called upon to pitch the ninth.
It all began with Keuchel’s rough outing.
“When he’s right, he’s giving up ground balls,” La Russa said. “Right away, most of the balls are in the air which shows that, at that point, movement wasn’t there. Location wasn’t there. So, that’s what I think. Today, when they start getting balls in the air, that means, at that point, he’s not sharp.
“Today was atypical for him, which happens to pitchers. Some days, stuff is not working as well and you don’t get the normal kind of outing. Believe me, he wanted to go more than two innings and we wanted him to go more than two innings.”
But was it atypical for Keuchel, a highly accomplished pitcher who has struggled for the last two seasons? Since the start of 2021, Keuchel has allowed 123 earned runs and struck out just 115.
Lance Lynn begins his injury rehab assignment this weekend with Triple-A Charlotte. The White Sox already have Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Cease and Johnny Cueto in place, with Vince Velasquez in the bullpen and Davis Martin at Charlotte.
Another rough start or two would put the rotation spot in jeopardy for Keuchel. It’s a point he certainly understands but doesn’t seem to fear.
“One thing or another, it's going to get there,” Keuchel said. “As much as it hurts tonight and last start, it'll get there. We'll be talking differently soon."