La Russa: 'I'm confident in our offense'

April 21st, 2022

CLEVELAND -- If there was one play that was emblematic of the White Sox showing in their Wednesday doubleheader against the Guardians, it came in the fifth inning of the nightcap.

After Adam Engel and Reese McGuire led off the inning with walks -- creating one of Chicago’s few scoring chances on the day -- Danny Mendick smoked a ball past third baseman Gabriel Arias into left field, allowing Reese McGuire to score, cutting the Guardians' lead to 2-1. Whatever momentum the play generated was quickly snuffed out, however, as Steven Kwan dug the ball out of the corner and threw a one-hopper home to cut down Engel and preserve Cleveland’s lead.

Even as the White Sox took a step forward, they took a step back. In 18 innings of baseball, Chicago committed five errors and mustered only two runs and eight hits en route to a doubleheader sweep in the form of 11-1 and 2-1 losses at Progressive Field.

“There really isn’t one answer for everything,” manager Tony La Russa said about the team’s hitting struggles. “You go through periods where you have a good strike zone, and then periods where it gets funky. Normally, the answer is to go back to the basics. I’m confident in our offense.”

Things started poorly from the jump for the White Sox, as Game 1 starter Dallas Keuchel was unable to get an out in the second inning -- a nightmare scenario for a club that is playing three games in 24 hours. It didn’t help that Chicago’s defense committed four errors behind him. After Arias opened the second inning by reaching on Tim Anderson’s error -- Anderson’s second in as many innings -- the Guardians rattled off four straight singles before José Ramírez blew the game open with a 386-foot grand slam to make it 7-0.

After three more singles and another Anderson error -- marking the second three-error game of the shortstop’s career -- Keuchel was pulled. It was the fourth time in his career that he was unable to get an out in the second inning, and the first time he allowed 10 runs in one start.

“There’s really nothing to say,” Keuchel said. “I watched it back on film, and it wasn’t any better.”

Game 2 starter Jimmy Lambert fared much better. While the 27-year-old starter allowed two runs in 3 2/3 innings, he had command of the strike zone for most of his outing, with the Guardians capitalizing on his lone mistakes with RBI doubles from Oscar Mercado and Ramírez.

“I thought he was outstanding,” La Russa said of Lambert. “He made two pitches that had a little hang to them, and those were the two balls they hit. I thought he was outstanding. It’s a shame he was the losing pitcher.”

After going only three innings in his season debut last Thursday, Lambert felt like he made some progress Wednesday.

“It’s tough because we got the loss, but I felt like I threw the ball pretty well, to be honest,” he said. “Two 0-2 mistakes cost us two runs.”

The highlight of the two games for the White Sox came in the bottom of the fifth inning of the nightcap, when third baseman Josh Harrison made a terrific behind-the-back, over-the-shoulder catch in shallow left field on Ramírez’s pop-up before sprawling on the ground to avoid colliding with Andrew Vaughn.

Harrison traveled 97 feet to make the catch, with a sprint speed of 24.8 feet per second. He left an inning later with shoulder and neck soreness, but he said after the game that it was a “best-case scenario.”

“He’s hurting,” La Russa said. “He was really getting some spasms. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but I don’t know if we’ll put him out there.”