The Chicago White Sox sent young ace Chris Sale to the mound against the Colorado Rockies for his final spring tuneup before making his second consecutive Opening Day start next Monday. The lefty surrendered two runs on six hits in 3.2 innings, walking none and striking out three.
But even with the concentrated run count, Sale still hit the strike zone with his usual effectiveness, throwing a mere 22 pitches, 21 of which were strikes. After Nate Jones threw 1.1 innings and gave up two more runs, Matt Lindstrom, Daniel Webb, Ronald Belisario and Maikel Cleto each pitched an inning of scoreless relief to close out the game.
Despite the unusually strong showing from the bullpen, Sale took the 4-1 loss because of the echoing silence of the White Sox offense.
The largest concern visible in this game is one that has plagued the White Sox for the past several years: this is not a team that scores a lot of runs. Yesterday, the bullpen nearly turned a win into a loss. Today, it was the offense that bore the blame, thanks to a dominant pitching performance by Rockies right-hander Juan Nicasio, who no-hit the White Sox in his five innings of work. Overall, the White Sox mustered just three hits, and got their lone run on the board in vintage small ball fashion in the bottom of the sixth inning against reliever Chad Bettis.
It can get very tiring repeating the word “inconsistent” over and over again, especially regarding what to expect from the White Sox this year. But the fact is that consistency breeds on-field success, and the various components of a good team need to work together on a consistent basis to win.
It’s not enough to have great starting pitching and a dynamic offense if the bullpen can’t keep runs off the board. Sale is one of the better young pitchers in baseball today, but if the White Sox offense can’t score at least three or so runs for him and the rest of the starting staff, wins could be hard to come by in Chicago in 2014.