Missed opportunities spoil White Sox chance to sweep

May 18th, 2023

CHICAGO -- White Sox catcher was asked a question about defeats following his team’s 3-1 loss to the Guardians on Thursday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Is it easier to lose a close game as the South Siders did in this series finale, dropping them to 16-29 on the season? Or is it easier to bounce back from a blowout?

“They are about the same. Losing is losing,” Zavala said. “It don’t matter if you lose by one or 10. It counts the same.”

Finishing off a three-game sweep is always tough, even at home and even with the White Sox having dominated the Guardians (20-23) over the first two games. Cleveland was also playing without third baseman José Ramírez (bereavement list) and first baseman Josh Naylor (leg tightness), and already had lost Tuesday behind ace Shane Bieber

The challenge becomes even tougher when failed opportunities are factored into the equation, and the White Sox missed on a bases-loaded, nobody out situation in the second after Jake Burger and Yasmani Grandal singled and Andrew Benintendi walked against Logan Allen. But Hanser Alberto popped out after a nine-pitch at-bat and Zavala and Jake Marisnick struck out with Marisnick being called out on a 3-2 four-seam fastball.

Over the last 24 games, the White Sox are batting .229 with runners in scoring position after finishing 1-for-7 Thursday. They rank seventh overall in the American League in that category.

“If we cashed in those runs, it gives our pitchers a little more room, a little bit better chance,” Zavala said. “We have to figure out how to get those runners in.”

“We chased a little bit but at the same time, I don't know if you can just say we chased because he was around the strike zone the whole time and a lot of those were strike to balls and those were good pitches,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “But again, bases loaded, nobody out, we score a couple there we bring the momentum to our side and with [Dylan] Cease on the mound we're feeling pretty good.”

Cease (2-3) allowed three runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings, striking out three against an aggressive Cleveland attack. The Guardians pushed across two in the seventh on a Tim Anderson fielding error with runners on second and third with one out and Cam Gallagher followed that with an RBI single that broke an 0-for-34 slump.

“He made a really good play earlier on in the game, and he's moving around well, he's practicing well,” said Grifol of Anderson. “He probably makes that play nine out of 10, 10 out of 10 times. Today it didn't happen.”

"We're definitely on the right track. I was doing a good job of pouring in strikes,” Cease said. “I didn't necessarily have my sharpest stuff, but pounding the zone. Definitely more room to go, but definitely much better than my previous couple. Anytime you get the loss, it's disappointing."

made his first appearance since Oct. 12, 2021, in the American League Division Series against Houston, needing seven pitches to record three flyouts in the ninth. His return after Tommy John surgery prior to the 2022 season is another step in the right direction for the White Sox. 

But Cease’s aforementioned comment brings matters full circle in terms of the easiest way to digest a setback. The White Sox certainly can’t be expected to win every game, but after this tough start to the season leaving them 8 1/2 games out of first, they also can’t give away opportunities. 

A series win is a nice first step for a stretch of 16 of 19 games played within the division. But at some point soon, they will need more than a two- or three-game winning streak.

“This loss right here, we had opportunities to do some things,” Grifol said. “We didn't capitalize in that second inning and just kept the game 0-0 and at that time, anything can happen.

“Their guy threw the ball really well. I thought we got more comfortable as the game went on against him. We had a chance to just bring that momentum, keep that momentum, over to our side and we didn't do it early.”