Cueto sharp (again) in CG, but bats quiet in Texas

August 5th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- White Sox manager Tony La Russa discussed his team’s 3-2 setback to the Rangers for a few minutes following the Thursday night opener of this four-game set at Globe Life Field.

But La Russa really only needed his final two words to describe a rather nondescript contest.

“Tough loss,” he said, as he stood outside the visitors clubhouse.

It was a tough loss because Toronto cruised by Minnesota at Target Field while Houston and Justin Verlander shut down the Guardians in Cleveland. There was no ground lost, as the White Sox (53-52) stayed two behind the Twins and one behind the Guardians in the American League Central. That said, they didn't take advantage of a clear opportunity.

The White Sox lineup was fully together for the first time during the 2022 season, with Luis Robert returning as designated hitter for the first time since July 15 when he exited in Minnesota due to lightheadedness and blurred vision. José Abreu, Robert, Eloy Jiménez, Tim Anderson, Yoán Moncada and Yasmani Grandal have guided the White Sox to a 25-11 record since 2020 when all six are in the starting lineup.

Make that 25-12 after Thursday.

Johnny Cueto’s complete game was wasted, as the right-hander allowed three earned runs over eight innings with four strikeouts and no walks. La Russa termed the performance as “magnificent again,” as Cueto pitched at least six innings for the 13th time this season and in his seventh straight trip to the mound.

“I think I pitched well,” said Cueto through interpreter Billy Russo. “Unfortunately, the offense couldn't support me, but that's part of the game too. I don't blame them. But, I think I pitched a good game."

Cueto entered the eighth inning at 93 pitches, having given up two runs in the seventh on Meibrys Viloria’s pinch-hit, go-ahead single and Marcus Semien’s short sacrifice fly caught in right-center by Andrew Vaughn after a near collision with center fielder AJ Pollock. La Russa and his staff talked to the veteran before giving him the eighth, and Cueto cruised through Jonah Heim, Nathaniel Lowe and Adolis García on 13 pitches.

“We talked to him,” La Russa said. “He has an extra day before he pitches next time. He felt good. [Joe] Kelly was warming up with him so we weren’t going to let him get in trouble. But he goes 1, 2, 3.”

“He just asked me, 'Are you OK'? And I told him, 'Yes, I'm good,'" Cueto said. “I felt good. He had the confidence in me and gave me the chance to go out there.”

When preparation for the 2022 season began, Cueto was not part of the White Sox roster. In fact, Cueto wasn’t part of any roster. He signed a Minor League deal, worked his way into regular season readiness in the Minors and has become one of the steadiest pitchers in the AL, let alone with the White Sox.

His ERA sits at 2.91 over 96 innings, as his pitching guile continues to get the best of the opposition.

“What can I say?” Cueto said. “I feel good and feel healthy. My plan has been to just try to make quick outs. I haven't been trying to strike out too many batters because I want to go deep into the games. For me, in order to do that, I need to find quick outs. I've been able to do that and I've been feeling very, very good. Especially, my body feels good."

There would be even more good feelings if the White Sox could put together a higher output on a more consistent basis. The South Siders finished Thursday with five hits, only one of the extra-base variety, and at 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Robert felt good in his return, and will take his place in center field Friday. And the White Sox hope this group will put up bigger results behind pitching performances, such as Cueto’s in the final 57 games.

“We are a good team. We know that,” said Abreu through Russo. “Right now, our goal has to be trying to stay healthy. If we stay healthy and we stay on the field, we know we are going to be good. Let’s give it all to these 60 games to see what happens. Let’s do our best. Let’s work hard together. We’ll see at the end. That’s our mindset right now.”