Tony La Russa called the first game after the All-Star break “one of the most intriguing games of the season.”
“Because you really don’t know what you’re going to get, either team,” the Chicago White Sox manager said before Friday’s game against the Cleveland Guardians. “All of a sudden, it switches back on.”
The Guardians came out swinging, taking advantage of some hits that found holes before a two-run home run from Andrés Giménez during a four-run first.
The Sox never recovered, losing 8-2 in front of 31,379 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“You bloop a couple in, hit a couple of seeing-eye ground balls. It’s part of the game,” La Russa said. “They had it going for them early. They jumped ahead. It could have been us, but it happened to them.
“I don’t think that was part of first day back. Buzzard’s luck. Sometimes it’s for you. Sometimes it’s against you.”
Sox starter Lucas Giolito (6-6) allowed six runs on nine hits in just three innings.
“It was tough,” Giolito said. “Never fun giving up a bunch of runs early and nine hits. It’s a tough one to assess because a lot of the hits weren’t hit hard. I felt like they were relatively well-executed pitches.
“The ones I would really like back are the homer, a bad first-pitch changeup and the first base-hit of the game was not the best slider to (Steven) Kwan. Other than that it was like, I’d have to go back and look at it. Maybe I need to sequence better or execute a little bit better. Just unfortunate.”
The Sox had an opportunity to get to over .500 for the first time since May 26, when they were 22-21.
Instead they slipped back under .500 at 46-47 and are two games behind the second-place Guardians in the American League Central. The Sox trail the division-leading Minnesota Twins by 3½ games.
“I continue to work on the adjustments and mechanical stuff that I need to work on, especially with the lower half,” Giolito said. “But it was just a rough outing. It sucks. It’s a results game, and getting poor results, putting our team in a hole, I’ve got to find a way to be better.”
Two of the Guardians’ four hits in the first had exit velocities of less than 80 mph, according to MLB Statcast.
José Ramírez’s bloop hit to left that landed just fair, with an exit velocity of 78.6 mph, gave the Guardians runners on second and third with one out. Josh Naylor drove in a run with a single with an exit velocity of 74.8 mph.
Ramírez scored on Owen Miller’s sacrifice fly to shallow center field. The Sox appealed to third, hoping that Ramírez left the base early. Third-base umpire Edwin Moscoso ruled Ramírez properly tagged up.
Giménez hit the first pitch after the appeal over the right-field wall for a two-run homer. And just like that the Sox trailed 4-0.
“You saw the same rally I did,” La Russa said. “How many balls were hit hard? Two hard, but the other ones were well-placed. The ground ball got through. They hit three bloopers, one of them (Adam) Engel made the catch.
“It’s a tough way to start the game. You initiate less than good contact and you don’t get an out for it. That’s what I saw. That’s four runs, and two more (the next inning). It wasn’t his day.”
The Guardians scored two more runs in the second.
“Credit to them, they got the bat on the ball and found holes and ran up a four-run first inning and a couple of more runs in the next inning and then I was done after three,” Giolito said.
Giolito exited after 64 pitches.
“At that point, you’re better off turning the page,” La Russa said. “He had done his part, and we stayed in the game. He knows we needed innings. He definitely wanted to go back out there. Sometimes it’s just not your day.”
Meanwhile, the Sox didn’t convert early chances. They had runners on first and second with two outs in the first and didn’t score. The first two batters reached in the second, but a double play and strikeout ended the threat.
The first two batters reached in the third. The Sox came through with a run on a double by José Abreu and another on a groundout by Yasmani Grandal, who returned from the injured list Friday.
But after collecting five hits in the first three innings, the Sox had only two more the rest of the way.
The Guardians have won four straight. Their last loss was to Giolito and the Sox 2-1 on July 13. Giolito allowed one unearned run and five hits in 6⅓ innings in that outing, his last before the All-Star break. But the Sox weren’t able to duplicate that success Friday.
“I’ve made some good adjustments, but I’ve got a lot more in the tank than what I’m showing,” Giolito said. “It’s frustrating because it’s probably just one little adjustment away that I just haven’t gotten to yet.”