'We're surviving': After 8-game losing streak, strong pitching has White Sox back on track
The White Sox came roaring out of the gates with a 6-2 record and looked like they were headed for another smooth ride in the AL Central.
A puzzling eight-game losing streak followed, and the Sox dropped 10 of 11 heading into this week's schedule.
The offense is still trying to get going, but the pitching has more than picked up the slack during a three-game winning streak that has the White Sox feeling much better about themselves heading into a weekend series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
"Despite that tough stretch there, we didn't lose faith," starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said.
Manager Tony La Russa never panicked when the losses were coming fast and furious, and he's not getting overly excited now that the Sox (11-13) have stopped the bleeding.
"We win three in a row, but we're minus two (games under .500)," La Russa said after the White Sox beat the Cubs 4-3 at Wrigley Field Wednesday night to complete a two-game sweep. "Get over .500 by a bunch and then start getting serious. But as long as we compete, I'm happy. Not happy, I know that those are our numbers.
"And we're getting closer to getting healthy. We're surviving."
Getting third baseman Yoan Moncada (oblique) back from the injured list early next week can only help an offense that is hitting .221/.276/.355 while barely scoring over 3 runs a game.
Andrew Vaughn, one of the White Sox's best hitters in April, was placed on the 10-day injured list Thursday (retroactive to May 2).
Dealing with a bruised right hand after being hit by a pitch last Friday, Vaughn should be back in the lineup late next week.
Eloy Jimenez is out until some point in June after having surgery to repair a torn right hamstring tendon, so the strong pitching has to continue if the Sox hope to keep trending upward.
Through the first 24 games, there have been bright spots in the rotation and bullpen.
Dylan Cease had a breakout year in 2021 and the White Sox's right-hander has been one of baseball's best starters through the first month-plus this year.
Cease is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA and he ranks among major league leaders in strikeouts (39 in 29 innings) and WHIP (0.93).
"His continued progress is just, I don't want to say amazing because that means it's beyond what he can do," La Russa said. "How quickly he's developing is just very fun to see."
Heading into spring training, Lance Lynn and Giolito occupied the top two spots in the Sox's rotation.
Lynn should be back later this month following knee surgery and Giolito is gradually regaining his old form after missing two starts in April with an abdominal injury.
Michael Kopech is 1 inning short of qualifying, otherwise he'd be second in the majors with a 1.17 ERA.
"I don't think I've pitched to the best of my capabilities, but I feel like I've had opportunities to grind and battle with what I do have," said Kopech, who pitched out of the White Sox's bullpen last year after missing the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
The Sox are keeping a close eye on Kopech's workload as the right-hander pushes for more innings.
"I want to be healthy at the end of the year and able to go 6, 7, 8 (innings) or whatever in July, August, September, hopefully October," Kopech said. "I completely understand, but I'm still in the position where I want to do it now."
In the bullpen, closer Liam Hendriks endured an erratic April and is back to his old self with 3 perfect innings and 3 saves in May.
"I prefer a slow start than a slow finish," Hendriks said.
As the White Sox wait for Joe Kelly (right biceps nerve injury) to make his debut next week, Kendall Graveman (1.35 ERA) and Matt Foster (0.77) have been rock solid setting up Hendriks.