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White Sox losing streak stretches to nine games, mental mistakes continue

Jared Wyllys Avatar
April 29, 2023

For the first time in over a year, Garrett Crochet is going to pitch in a real game. And for the first time in his career, it will be in the minor leagues.

This is a much-needed sliver of good news as the White Sox stretched their losing streak to nine games. The latest dropped game, Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the Rays, exhibited many of the ways the Sox have been a bewilderingly frustrating team this season.

Before the game and on the heels of a 14-5 loss the night before, manager Pedro Grifol talked about the importance of his team not making mental mistakes on defense. 

“That can’t happen,” he said. “That’s not a part of who we are. That’s been addressed and we’ll move forward today.”

But those lack of focus errors didn’t take long to impact Friday’s game. In the first inning, a miscommunication on a Brandon Lowe fly ball in the first inning allowed Yandy Diaz to score from third. No one was covering second base as Lenyn Sosa made the catch, and when Sosa got the ball, he chose to throw to second anyway instead of making the play to keep Diaz at third.

“Again, mental mistakes against championship caliber teams,” Grifol said after Friday’s loss. “You don’t win like that.”

And there were issues besides defensive gaffes. Kendall Graveman gets the loss in the box score because of the home run he surrendered to Isaac Paredes in the ninth inning, but the offense had sputtered badly before that. 

A solo home run by Andrew Vaughn in the first inning tied the game, and Jake Burger’s team-leading seventh homer of the season gave the Sox the lead in the second inning. But that was ultimately all the Sox had to show for themselves offensively. Otherwise, they went 0-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded at least one runner in each of the third through seventh innings, and then two more in the bottom of the ninth.

Graveman, who was pitching for the second night in a row, was visibly upset in the Sox clubhouse following the loss.

“It’s just tough. The boys fought and we had a chance at the end and kept fighting,” he said. “I’m solely responsible. Two nights in a row giving up solo homers doesn’t sit well with me.”

There was promise that the losing streak would stop at eight games. Grifol opened the postgame interview with praise for starter Lucas Giolito, who tossed his third quality start of the year, going into the seventh inning while allowing just two runs on eight hits. Headed into Friday’s start, Giolito’s walk rate was all the way down to 5%, by far the lowest of his career. Against the Rays, he walked none.

And this was in spite of a warning given to both benches in the first inning, after Luis Robert, Jr. was hit by Rays starter Zach Eflin. Grifol argued the warning, saying after the game that he does not agree with the rule that calls for mutual bench warnings in that kind of situation. Grifol was eventually ejected, and for the second night in a row.

“I don’t agree with that rule. I don’t agree with they hit our guy and we get warnings,” he said. “I don’t agree with it. Never have, never will. As long as I’m in this game and beyond when I’m in this game, I don’t agree with that. That’s just not the way I was brought up in this game.”

Getting Crochet – and eventually Liam Hendriks – back in the bullpen is almost certainly going to be a good thing for the Sox. A nine-game losing streak means a lot more is going wrong than just one part of the team, but having those two as late-inning options should help to start steering this ship in the right direction, especially in situations like Friday’s, where Graveman is called upon to take the ninth inning.

Crochet will head to Double-A Birmingham and make his first appearance on Sunday, and then eventually move up to Triple-A Charlotte before rejoining the major league team. Crochet was a 2020 first round draft pick and debuted late that September, so this will be his first taste of minor league life. Hendriks threw off of the mound in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Friday, but there is no timetable for him going forward yet.

In Crochet’s case, he said the plan is for him to assess how best to move forward a day at a time, but one of the main things will be how he recovers from each appearance and feels the next day.

“Just feeling good, recovering good. Just being confident, and that’s pretty much it,” he said. “Got some checkmarks I gotta hit along the way as far as two out of three, multiple innings as well throughout the rehab assignment.”

In the meantime, there’s the reality that the Sox have not technically or mathematically reached a point where this season is unsalvageable, but it is hard to look past the historically bad start the team is having. So bad that national pundits are already putting out trade deadline hypotheticals and general manager Rick Hahn is worried about his job security. 7-20 is their worst start to a season since Harry Truman was president, and even without the nine-game losing streak, they would still be well below .500.

“It sucks. There aren’t too many words to describe it. Shitty,” Giolito said. “I have faith in these guys, faith in myself. We’ve just got to try and put it together.

“I hate losing. I’m going out there trying to win these games. I know we’re all trying but we’ve got to do it. We’ve got to turn this thing around.”

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