CHICAGO -- The 31-game mark is a little early to start comparing how the White Sox stack up against the American League’s top teams.
That theory would hold true even if the White Sox had not dropped a 10-4 decision to the Yankees on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, being outscored by a 25-11 margin over the first two contests of this four-game series.
Remember, the White Sox eventually will return power-hitting left fielder Eloy Jiménez, front-line starter Lance Lynn and left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer to their attack, making them a different looking team. But with a 15-16 record and trailing the Twins by three games in the AL Central, when does it no longer become too early to break down a talented group looking for a third straight postseason appearance?
Gavin Sheets, who homered for the third time this week on Friday, answered that question postgame after an extended pause to think about his response.
“End of October. That's the best I can give you,” Sheets said. “Right now, we're in a race with Minnesota, not with anybody else. We're trying to win the AL Central, and that's our job.
“Everything else takes care of itself. We're going to continue to play as hard as we can and put our best foot forward and trust the talent in here, with the work ethic. We're going to be OK."
Friday’s script had a somewhat similar hard-hitting Yankees look to what happened Thursday, aside from New York (24-8) grabbing control early and never looking back. Giancarlo Stanton launched a two-run home run off Vince Velasquez in the first inning, and the White Sox missed on a bases-loaded, one-out situation against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.
Cole struck out Sheets and AJ Pollock swinging, with the biggest noise made by the White Sox coming when catcher Jose Trevino tried to pick off Tim Anderson at third with a snap throw following Sheets’ strikeout. Anderson beat the throw but took umbrage when third baseman Josh Donaldson seemed to push him off the bag and inadvertently clipped him with a knee.
Both benches and bullpens slowly emptied. But third-base umpire Chris Guccione diffused the situation quickly, and Anderson and Donaldson appeared to settle things shortly thereafter at third base.
"We had an opportunity to get a back pick right there,” Donaldson said. “I thought we were going to get him and [it was] a baseball play trying to make the tag. I leaned on him a little bit, not intentionally, to make the tag. And obviously he didn't like that. It's just two guys competing trying to make a play happen."
No save is awarded to a losing pitcher, let alone when his team falls by six runs. But Velasquez really deserved one on Friday.
Despite allowing five runs in the first two innings, Velasquez was able to work through five innings on 101 pitches. It was important length considering the White Sox are in the midst of nine games in eight days, while trying to carefully watch the bullpen usage. That extra work didn’t quite offset the seven runs allowed in the right-hander’s mind.
“This is very disappointing, especially since [Dylan] Cease had a rough outing [Thursday] as well,” Velasquez said. “You kind of want to come back and have an impact and kind of at least be a threat. It just seemed like they were a little bit more comfortable and they kind of zoned me up pretty well, and they capitalized on the pitches I mistakenly threw.”
“There were a couple highlights: The way [Velasquez] gutted it out and gave us five. Otherwise we would have been messy,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “The other one was the exhibition of infield defense we put on, including the catcher.”
La Russa’s crew fell to 1-9 in its last 10 games against the Yankees and 0-6 at home during that span, running back to June 15, 2019. There are two more games on tap this weekend, and the White Sox travel to Yankee Stadium next weekend for three.
Certainly none of these games are must-win for the White Sox. But to be the best, they certainly would like to be more competitive against one of the best.
“Right now, collectively, as a whole, we're not swinging as well as we can. But at the same time, we've got a lot of guys that can really hit in here,” Sheets said. “It's May , it's still early.
“I'll take this team in the long run. Right now, it might be tough, but come September, October, I still like our chances. There's way too much talent in here to panic."