It’s time to balance out the post celebrating the 10 signature White Sox winners of the team’s fourth consecutive losing season.
Last year, I did it in chronological order to emphasize the “signature” portion. You could make a list of the worst losses by how much territory the White Sox forfeited on a win-probability chart, but that does an injustice to the rhythms of a 162-game season. There are many distinctive ways for one team to lose a game in soul-shattering fashion, and they should all have a place at the table.
This season, though, there’s no debate about the two most painful losses, and they should be given their due. Accounting for the drama, I arranged the losses in a rough order, starting with ones that were merely symbolic of the Sox’ specific kinds of futility, and ending with the ones that jaded an entire generation.
The White Sox faced Hector Santiago four times in 2016, twice with the Angels and twice with the Twins. They scored three runs total, and that was all in one game they lost 11-3. They were shut out over the remaining 201⁄3 innings. Santiago went 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA against the White Sox, and 9-10 with a 5.32 ERA against everybody else.
Companion game: June 4: Tigers 7, White Sox 4. Chris Sale is denied his 10th win because Mike Pelfrey turned in his best start of the season, which was two months old at the time. The Sox offense has a way of turning on-paper advantages into coin flips.
The penance for complaining about John Danks, Qualified Fifth Starter begins when James Shields gets shelled for seven runs over two-plus innings in his White Sox debut. It ended with J.B. Shuck pitching, the only time a White Sox position player appeared on a mound this season (thankfully). He gave up a run, but still fared better than Shields on average.
Companion game: Half of Shields’ starts.
The White Sox become only the third team — and second franchise — to lose a game in which they hit seven homers. They were all solo shots, and they came after Miguel Gonzalez dug the Sox a 5-0 hole and the front end of the bullpen made it worse. The Tigers had previously achieved the feat in 2004 and 1995.
Companion game: July 27: Cubs 8, White Sox 1. Making his White Sox debut, Anthony Ranaudo became the first White Sox pitcher since Mark Buehrle to hit a home run, and he no-hit the Cubs through five. Why wasn’t that fun?
The Braves were expected to be one of the worst teams in baseball, and they lived down to that billing. They botched relays, they screwed up infield-outfield communication, they made poor throwing decisions, they forgot how many outs they were, and they even hit into a triple play, the White Sox’ second of three on the season. Yet Chris Sale gave up three homers (including one by Tyler Flowers) and ended his day by allowing three consecutive doubles (including one by Flowers), and so the Sox somehow looked worse.
Companion game: July 31: Twins 6, White Sox 4. Minnesota offered all the help it could give with four errors, and yet...
This is the one where Tommy Kahnle entered with runners on first and second and one out in the 12th inning and threw eight of nine pitches out of the zone for the walk-off #shrimp. But this is also the one where the White Sox got 11 innings of one-run ball from Jose Quintana, Matt Albers, Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson while Ricky Nolasco pitched for the other team and they still didn’t win. Kahnle was the second-biggest culprit tonight.
Companion game: Aug. 10: Royals 3, White Sox 2 (12 innings). Quintana didn’t have many no-decisions this year, but they were typically tough when they did.
The furor over the plate-blocking rule largely died down this year, but the White Sox still found a way to be on the wrong end of it. Carlos Sanchez was denied the game-tying run with two outs in the ninth when his slide into home plate ended up getting more of catcher Jeff Mathis, who fielded Christian Yelich’s throw from left and applied the tag for the final out. The umpires reviewed it, but after about 15 seconds, the call stood, perhaps because Mathis received the throw the only place he could.
Companion game: Aug. 5: Orioles 7, White Sox 5. This one ended when Justin Morneau grounded out to first. He didn’t run because it looked like the ball glanced off his foot. A replay agreed with him. The Sox didn’t get to review it because Robin Ventura had used his challenge, and the umpires, while having the option to call for reviews themselves in late innings, simply didn’t wanna.
This game encapsulated Ventura’s biggest problem with pitching staffs over his managerial career and his biggest problem of 2016. First, he tried to get a sixth inning out of Anthony Ranaudo even though the league torched him his third time through, and he gave up a two-run shot in the fifth. When the Tigers greeted him with a leadoff double, Ventura then pulled Ranaudo and tried to put out the fire with Albers, who hadn’t been effective for months. It worked out as well as anybody expected.
The Royals had a way of making Robin Ventura look amateurish over the last several years, and he never looked more in over his head when he used five pitchers in the seventh inning while attempting to hold a three-run lead. He only called for Nate Jones after the Sox fell behind.
The White Sox led 11-6 entering the eighth inning, but they had endured two rain delays in this one, and had just played a 12-inning game the night before. Given the circumstances, Ventura tried to use one of his low-leverage guys to protect a comfortable lead, but Scott Carroll caved in and Duke couldn’t save him, resulting in a seven-run Ranger eighth. The Sox had gone more than a month into the season without a truly painful loss thanks to their 23-10 start, but their 11th defeat was a harbinger.
Companion game: May 11: Rangers 6, White Sox 5. The White Sox pitching staff limped out of Texas after losing two more leads in this game, and Todd Frazier suffered more tangible wounds when he busted his mouth going after a foul ball. He departed the game quickly enough to alarm Hawk Harrelson, who left the broadcast booth to get a report for himself.
David Robertson started the ninth with the White Sox leading 7-1. He struck out Paulo Orlando to start the inning. Somehow, the Royals scored seven runs before Robertson and Kahnle could record the final two outs. While Robertson blew it, the decision to go to Kahnle was even stranger, and when Ventura called for Kahnle to issue consecutive intentional walks, the panic had overcome everybody.
Companion game: July 19: Mariners 4, White Sox 3.
Chris Sale threw eight innings of one-hit ball to hand David Robertson a 3-0 lead in the ninth. Sale only needed 100 pitches, but started looking vulnerable over his last inning, so there was nothing wrong with the call. There was something wrong with Robertson, who gave up a single and a three-run homer with two outs. Yet it was only his second-most painful game of the year.