Sometimes things in baseball just snowball. Over a season, over a week, over a day, and sometimes even over an inning. One bad thing leads to another and the next thing you know the strobe lights in Guaranteed Rate Field are going off after an 8-3 loss.
It wasn’t all Mike Zunino’s fault that six runs scored in the bottom of the fifth inning tonight, but considering they all scored when there were two outs following a catcher’s interference call ... well, it’s kind of hard not to blame him a little bit. Sure, Shane Bieber could have made some better pitches so he didn’t surrender two home runs and four-straight hits. But letting Luis Robert get a free base instead of getting him out because your catcher breaks the most fundamental rule of catching has to be at least a little frustrating.
Truthfully, Bieber was lucky that all the runs tonight only came in that one inning; that he only allowed five earned over 4.2 innings. The White Sox had no issues squaring him up tonight, despite his game-high 11 swings and misses. Josh Bell had the hardest hit ball of the game at 111.6 mph (an out, naturally), but the next 10 hardest hit balls were all by White Sox batters. Sixteen in total were hit back at Bieber registering 92 mph or more off the bat. Those kinds of swings will fall for hits eventually, and of course they did in the worst possible sequence tonight.
Part of that might be because Bieber turned to his fastball a lot tonight, 33 times compared to 20 cutters, 19 sliders, 13 curves, and three changeups sprinkled in there. Unfortunately, and probably not coincidentally, a lot of those came in the fifth, including two of the four hits. It was a slider and a cutter eating up too much of the plate that were taken deep, however, as the White Sox amassed an insurmountable 6-0 lead by the time the inning mercifully ended.
Xzavion Curry, as he has done so many times this season, came in to clean up the garbage, finally recording the third out of the inning after he allowed a single of his own. He also allowed a run in the bottom of the sixth. Enyel De Los Santos allowed the final blow, a Luis Robert no-doubter in the bottom of the eighth to set the game at 8-3 and allow the Guardians to quietly fade to black in the top of the ninth.
For several innings, the offense was on the verge of being no-hit, and then one-hit by Lance Lynn. They eventually recovered a bit with seven hits, but still struck out seven times and only scored one run off of him. This was a 36-year-old pitcher who was coming off a seven-run implosion against the Royals last week with a 7.51 ERA on the season — so of course he utterly dominated the Guardians offense.
At least Will Brennan didn’t look completely overwhelmed at the plate tonight, recording two hits, including one off of a nice changeup at the very bottom edge of the zone.
Brayan Rocchio was able to get a hit in his first major-league at-bat, but it came in a way that no one wanted. He was only promoted today because José Ramírez left to be with his family following the death of his grandmother, and he was only batting because Josh Naylor seemingly injured himself extending to snag a ball at first base. In the moment, without the tragic context of his promotion in mind, it was a great moment for Rocchio — hopefully the first of many this season and beyond.
The man currently taking the most playing time away from Rocchio (and Tyler Freeman, for that matter), Gabriel Arias, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. If the plan was to give him a full leash and public backing from the front office and manager in an attempt to get him on track ... it hasn’t worked yet. He was so discombobulated by his last at-bat that he was out there swinging at pitches almost hitting him in the head.
That isn’t a quirk of Statcast and Arias’ stance that makes it look worse than it is or anything. It was truly that horrendous of a swing-and-miss.
At one point tonight, the Guardians had four shortstops-by-trade playing at the same time, and the worst fielding one was at the actual position for every single pitch. I don’t even know anymore, man. It’s not even like they’re arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, it’s like they’re making spears out of the chairs and poking holes in the ship just to see how fast it can fill with seawater.
There is not much more to say about this game, or this team, that hasn’t been said a hundred times already this season. They won’t go far if they don’t start hitting — especially if they are not hitting pitchers like Lance Lynn. They have the time to turn it around, but they need some sustained offensive success from someone. Literally anyone.