It was quite the sight to behold. They were into the sixth inning at U.S. Celluar field on Thursday night, and neither team had registered a base hit. White Sox ace Chris Sale was working on a no-hitter, and Red Sox southpaw Jon Lester had been perfect. That all ended rather quickly, as the Red Sox Xander Bogaerts blasted a solo shot deep into the left field bleachers off of Sale with two outs in the top of the sixth. Then in the ladder portion of the frame, catcher Tyler Flowers singled to left to break up Lester’s perfect game bid. Sale’s outing may have initially had all of the makings of an historical night. However, for the south side faithful, it ended up being nothing more than simply another evening at the Cell watching the White Sox bullpen struggles continue, as they wasted yet another quality start.
The south siders have dropped eight contests thus far in the early season, and six of those loses have come at the hand of their bullpen. This time it was Ronald Belsario who took the loss, allowing three consecutive base hits, including the go ahead double to David Ross in the top of the ninth. He would leave the game in favor of relieve Scott Downs. However, was also accountable for insurance run tacked on by Boston, when Jonathan Herrerra hit safely on a bases loaded bunt single.
The night before was an even bigger disaster. White Sox pitchers walked 15 batters, and managed to strike out only five. The first time such a feat had been accomplished since the Toronto Blue Jays did so back in 2002. In fact, the Red Sox became the first team since 1920, to have 23 or more batters reach base with only recording six or fewer hits.
Manager Robin Ventura was forced to use 4 pitchers in the eight inning alone. Then, with a one run lead, Ventura decided to give Maikel Cleto the nod to start the ninth. Cleto would walk the first and only two batters he saw, before he was pulled for closer Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom would wind up recording his third blown save on the season.
Eventually, with no arms left to use in the bullpen, Ventura would be forced to turn to his utility infielder Leury Garcia to take the mound with the game tied in the 14th. Garcia not only did not have any major league pitching experience, the infielder would go on to say in a post-game interview that he had never thrown a pitch in a game in his life. Not in college, not in high school, and not even in sandlot pickup games amongst friends. Garcia, who performed respectably given the circumstances, almost got out of the 14th frame unscathed. However, with two outs, two on, and a full count to outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., he surrendered a game deciding two-run double down the line in right field.
The White Sox bullpen currently holds an ERA that hovers at just over 7.00, they lead the American League in walks, and also in losses. It is safe to say that things are getting very desperate on the south side. At this rate, notching the all-time record for no-decisions by a starting pitching staff could be a very unpleasant reality for the squad. Left-handed reliever Donnie Veal was recently designated for reassignment down in the White Sox AAA affiliate in Charlotte. If the unit continues to struggle, do not be surprised to see more moves like this made in the near-future. This offense may be revamped on the south side, and the starting pitching staff may have a lot of promising young arms. However, if the bullpen cannot begin to show signs of life heading into summer, this could be another very long and painful season for the White Sox.
Commentary by Richard Glenn