Chicago White Sox

Mike Pelfrey falters again as three Angels homers bury White Sox

Mike Pelfrey falters again as three Angels homers bury White Sox

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Rick Renteria didn’t shy away from the blame for Monday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

The White Sox manager could see that his starting pitcher, Mike Pelfrey, had begun to wear down in the fifth inning. Ahead by three runs, Renteria had the pieces in place to make a move to try and keep his team in the lead. But instead of listening to his instincts, Renteria went with his heart and stayed with Pelfrey.

Six pitches later, the lead had vanished. Fifth-inning home runs by Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout off Pelfrey gave the Angels everything they needed to send the White Sox to a 5-3 loss in front of 29,445 at Angel Stadium. The White Sox, who opened a 10-game road trip at Anaheim, have lost seven of their last nine games.

“I thought Pelf gave us a nice four-plus innings,” Renteria said. “Really, he gave us enough to do what we needed to do. I had those guys out there ready to pick him up, and I didn’t. I went against my better judgment. We had (Dan Jennings) ready for Calhoun, and we had our righty ready. So that’s not any of their faults but mine. At least it would have given us a better chance. I couldn’t guarantee that the outcome would have been what we wanted, but I think the matchups would have been better, and pretty much that’s it.”

Most of Pelfrey’s starts have gone exactly the same way. He looks outstanding through his first three or four innings before he struggles in the middle. Pelfrey entered Monday’s start with a .200 average against in his first two trips the lineup (13-for-65).

Pelfrey followed that format to a T on Monday as he retired the side in order in the first, third and fourth innings. He allowed a pair of runners with one out in the second inning but pitched out of the jam.

Pelfrey’s strong start allowed the White Sox a chance to get ahead by three runs. Jose Abreu blasted a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and Tyler Saladino tripled in a run in the fifth.

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But Pelfrey couldn’t sustain. He said a series of full counts earlier in the game (Pelfrey threw 74 pitches through four innings) finally caught up to him in the fifth. Pelfrey issued one-out walks to Cam Maybin and Danny Espinosa. Martin Maldonado followed with a deep drive to left, but Melky Cabrera tracked it down for the second out.

With Jennings warm in the bullpen, Renteria opted to leave Pelfrey in to face Calhoun, who was 0-for-2. Calhoun ripped a 1-0 fastball out to right for a game-tying, three-run shot. Four pitches later, Trout hammered a 1-2 changeup to put Los Angeles ahead.

Batters facing Pelfrey the third time through the lineup are now 9-for-12 this season.

“You want to get that guy through it,” Renteria said. “All season long we've done the opposite, not worried about the individual, more worried about the team. Bottom line today is I went against the team concept and did something for the player. And it bit us in the butt. These guys have been playing very, very hard. There is no way to clean that up, no way to make an excuse. None whatsoever. Everybody should be extremely upset. I'm upset. Tomorrow is another day.”

Pelfrey wasn’t pleased with himself, either.

He took no solace in the fact he kept the Angels in check for four innings. He exited after the Trout homer having allowed four earned runs, three hits and walking three in 4.2 innings.

Neither Pelfrey nor rookie Dylan Covey has completed six innings in a start this season. It’s one reason the White Sox promoted reliever Gregory Infante on Monday, to help with the workload. Infante pitched a scoreless inning and struck out one. The team could carry an eight-man bullpen into the foreseeable future, Renteria said.

“Pretty frustrated,” Pelfrey said. “Pretty disappointed. Pretty tough to swallow after getting the 3-0 lead and giving it right back. It sucks. It sucks.

“I thought I was 3-2 on everybody and a lot of pitches and killed the bullpen again, which sucks. You can’t get deep in the game when you’re 3-2 on everybody. Pitches rack up pretty fast. Pretty crappy all the way and disappointing. I really don’t know what to say.”

Why Yoan Moncada's hot streak is important for the White Sox confidence and his

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USA TODAY

Why Yoan Moncada's hot streak is important for the White Sox confidence and his

HOUSTON -- Don’t think the White Sox front office isn’t enjoying every second of Yoan Moncada’s tear.

Everyone can breathe a little easier knowing there are fewer questions for baseball’s top prospect to answer headed into 2018. Pleased as they’d been with Moncada’s patient plate approach, the club desired a breakthrough before Oct. 2 for the confidence boost it would provide him alone. Moncada continued a torrid run on Wednesday night that should have him bristling with poise when he arrives in Glendale, Ariz. next February. He homered as the White Sox fell 4-3 to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“We’ve been looking for him to continue to try and make adjustments,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There was probably a point there where people were a little concerned. Truthfully, when you see some of the talent these kids have, you recognize that their skillset is going to play up, it’s just a matter of getting the repetition.”

The White Sox have been impressed with Moncada’s improved awareness as he gains more experience.

One area in which Moncada has made the most gains is pitch recognition. The book has been that second baseman has had trouble with offspeed since he arrived in 2016, hitting .154 against sliders and .238 against curveballs entering Wednesday, according to Brooksbaseball.net.

But Moncada is trending upward. The first-pitch slider from Astros starter Brad Peacock that Moncada ripped for a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fourth inning was his fifth hit of the trip on a slider or curveball in 11 at-bats. On the trip, Moncada -- who has 189 plate appearances this season -- is hitting .415/.477/.683 with three homers, eight RBIs and 12 runs in 41 plate appearances.

[MORE: Jose Abreu's gift to Yoan Moncada just keeps on giving

Given Moncada’s struggles in a brief 2016 tryout with the Boston Red Sox, having success is certainly helpful as he won’t head into another offseason wondering when it might happen for him. Moncada doesn’t compare the two situations because of playing time -- he was limited to 20 plate appearances over a month in 2016. But he agrees his recent play is good for the psyche.

“It’s important for my confidence, especially thinking about next year,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “With this run, I have been able to have more confidence and believe in myself and my talent, and I think that’s something I can carry into next season.”

“This offseason is going to be different because I’ve been able to play almost every day. I have more confidence in myself. I know the game better. Last season I had an opportunity to be at this level a little bit, but it wasn’t the same. This year is the opposite because I’ve been playing a lot and have been able to handle good and bad stretches at this level.”

While a reduction in strikeout-rate is still needed to be more effective, Moncada has begun to establish himself as a major league hitter. It’s exactly how teammate and mentor Jose Abreu hoped Moncada would spend his time this season.

“He has to get to know a lot of things at this level,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The game, the pitchers, the culture here -- there’s a lot of little things he has to get to know here. The way you can work through it is give your best every day and try to learn as much as you can and try to use all your knowledge and to pool your knowledge on each play in the game. That’s the only way you can get results and you can build on those results and this experience for the future. I think he’s finally doing it and that’s important for him and for us thinking of the next season and beyond.”

Renteria not only likes the pitch recognition but the way that Moncada has tried to hit through the shift several times against Houston. Though the White Sox never wavered, they’re certainly happy to see Moncada produce the way they thought he eventually would.

“He’s starting to slow it down a little more,” Renteria said. “He’s starting to see more of the landscape and making adjustments in general. It’s been a good run for him. We thought he would show signs of growth at the end of the season and he’s doing that.”

Look away, White Sox fans: Chris Sale makes history

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USA TODAY

Look away, White Sox fans: Chris Sale makes history

This one may sting a bit, White Sox fans.  

On Wednesday evening, former White Sox ace Chris Sale accomplished a feat that no other American League pitcher has since 1999. The current Red Sox left-hander whiffed his 300th batter of the season, becoming the first A.L. hurler since Pedro Martinez to do so. 

Sale reached the impressive milestone in a dominant eight-inning, 13-strikeout gem. Vintage. 

Overall on the season, he's posted a 2.75 ERA with opponents hitting a mere .203 against him. Before his postseason debut in October, Sale has a shot at leading two franchises in season strikeout totals: 

The consolation on the South Side is that the prized prospect acquired in the Sale blockbuster had a pretty nice night himself. Yoan Moncada drilled a two-run blast in Houston, his seventh since being called up from Triple-A Charlotte on July 19. 

The great trade debate wages on.