Entering the 2014 season, Felipe Paulino stood out as one of the biggest question marks in the Chicago White Sox‘ starting rotation as he sought to return to the mound after being sidelined with an injury since the middle of the 2012 season.
Those question marks grew in size after Paulino’s poor performance in the White Sox’ 8-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies. The command problems that popped up in Spring Training reappeared in full force against a Rockies team that had a .308 team batting average and scored an average 5.57 runs per game.
In 4.1 innings, Paulino gave up six runs on nine hits, walking four and striking out just two. He also struggled to keep the ball down in the zone against Rockies hitters and had three ground ball outs compared to six flyouts, a dangerous ratio in the high altitudes of Denver.
Paulino’s start wasn’t the only weak point of the game. Playing in the thin air of Coors Field is usually a bonus to most teams, because balls fly out of the park with tremendous ease. That didn’t happen for the South Siders.
Despite ranking second in the American League with 5.67 runs per game and a .278 team batting average, the White Sox’ offense sputtered against Colorado starter Jordan Lyles, who did a great job of keeping his pitches down and out of the air. Collectively, the White Sox had five hits and left 13 runners on base, a far cry from the first six games of the season in which they scored 34 runs.
In Paulino’s first start of the season, he pitched well and couldn’t get the necessary support from his offense and bullpen to secure a win. This time it was a combination of his pitching and a complete lack of offense.
It’s possible to win with a mediocre offense and good pitching, but the White Sox have too deep of a lineup to not take advantage of park factors like the high altitude of Coors Field.
It’s been duly noted that the 2014 White Sox are a different team than last year based on the sparks that flew in the team’s wins against the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals in the first week of play.
At the same time, traces of last season’s frustrating futility emerge in dead losses like this one.