As Sox's Pitching Struggles, Early Concerns Emerge

The White Sox were humbled by the Twins, who remain the class of the AL Central.

Chris Emma
July 26, 2020 - 6:02 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- All weekend long, the White Sox heard noise coming from the opposing dugout.

From the moment ace Lucas Giolito's first pitch of the season cleared the fence for a Twins home run Friday evening to the final out of Chicago's 14-2 loss to Minnesota at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday afternoon, there were hollers coming from the visitors in the first-base dugout.

Without fans allowed in ballparks amid the coronavirus pandemic, cheers will be heard from one dugout at a time. 

"The best way to quell that is performance," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said after the opener Friday night.

Instead, the White Sox were left silenced again Sunday.

The White Sox were humbled in losing two out of three games to the reigning AL Central champion Twins in their season-opening series. Not only were they reminded that the Twins are still the class of the division, the White Sox saw their pitching depth exposed by a potent lineup.

In this 60-game sprint of a regular season, the White Sox will only go as far as their pitching allows -- no matter how dangerous their own lineup is. With that in mind, it was only appropriate that prized rookie outfielder Luis Robert hit his first big league home run Sunday with the White Sox trailing by 10 runs. 

The ace of this White Sox staff, Giolito was pounded Friday to the tune of seven earned runs over 3 2/3 innings of work. On Sunday, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez allowed a grand slam to Twins outfielder Jake Cave before leaving with two outs in the first inning as he suffered from right shoulder tightness. 

Slotted as the White Sox's third starter, Lopez could face an absence from the rotation.

"Hopefully this is not something serious," Lopez said.

Veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez, the man who will replace Lopez in the rotation if needed, entered in relief and allowed six earned runs over 3 2/3 innings of work. Reliever Kelvin Herrera allowed two more home runs and four earned runs in the final two innings. The White Sox's bullpen surrendered 14 earned runs over 17 1/3 innings in the series (7.27 ERA), adding insult to injury.

The White Sox entered the season believing they were ready to contend. They still believe that, but the reality is that won't happen without stronger starting pitching. Giolito and left-hander Dallas Keuchel need to pitch like aces each outing as question marks remain in the rest of the rotation. Lopez, Gonzalez, right-hander Dylan Cease and left-hander Carlos Rodon are each wild cards in their own respect.

If facing the Twins was a litmus test for the White Sox's pitching staff, they mostly failed. Keuchel was strong Saturday in earning the White Sox's long victory this weekend, otherwise it was ugly.

"That's one of the best lineups that any of us will see this year," Keuchel said. "They won the division for a reason last year. We're going to have to go through them to win this thing."

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn acknowledged he was pleased Thursday afternoon to learn that MLB was expanding its postseason format from 10 to 16 teams for this season, knowing it gives his up-and-coming team a better chance to make the playoffs.

But the unique scheduling format will challenge the White Sox, who will play two-thirds of this season against the AL Central. That includes seven more against the Twins.

If the White Sox hope to prove themselves as a true contender, they will have to first figure out their pitching uncertainty. Then they have to get past the Twins.

"I don't sell our guys short," Renteria said. "I think we have an opportunity here to grow as a young club and be competitive -- and be competitive against the best."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.