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Anthony Ranaudo's debut dragged down by White Sox stuff

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A thin roster compounds the effects of bad decisions and vice versa

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

In his White Sox debut on Wednesday, Anthony Ranaudo should’ve had a game worth celebrating. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth and held the Cubs to just two hits over 6⅔ innings while becoming the first White Sox pitcher to hit a home run since Mark Buehrle in 2009.

Instead, he became immediately immersed in the White Sox’ morass. The two hits he gave up were homers, and one of them wasn’t his fault.

Ranaudo had to settle for a moral victory, and there was one for him. In his previous outing, he walked five White Sox over 1⅓ innings, all of whom scored. His ERA ballooned to 17.18 as a result. Hawk Harrelson said that before Wednesday game, he "had never seen Anthony Ranaudo throw a baseball," but this highlight is evidence against that.

Maybe Harrelson just didn’t recognize Ranaudo because he threw strikes, and that’s a great thing.

The rest of the Sox were mostly recognizable, and Ranaudo couldn’t carry them past the Cubs by himself, though Robin Ventura tried to see how far he could go.

The game took a turn in the sixth inning, when Kris Bryant hit a hanger into the left-field bleachers to both spoil the no-hitter and tie the game at 1. In the top of the seventh, Dioner Navarro and Tyler Saladino struck out, bringing Ranaudo to the plate with two outs.

Given the state of the bullpen and an offense that can’t provide ample breathing room every so often, I could see why Ventura let Ranaudo bat for himself with nobody on and two out. Ranaudo had only allowed the one hit, and even though his stuff was starting to float up in the zone, the bottom of the Cubs order still might not have been able to hit it.

Ventura basically thought Ranaudo had a better chance of sparing the overworked high-leverage unit an inning than Justin Morneau had of creating a run with two outs and nobody on. That’s fair.

Ranaudo almost delivered his half of the bargain in the top of the seventh, getting a weak groundout from Miguel Montero and a sharp groundout from Addison Russell.

Then Jason Heyward came to the plate, and that’s when Ranaudo ran into a series of problems that have plagued the Sox over the last three months.

No. 1: Dioner Navarro missing strike three.

On a 2-2 count, Ranaudo snapped off a really good curveball down and in to freeze Heyward, right where Navarro called for it. Then Navarro threw it on the grooooooouuuuuuuuuund:

The pitch showed up as a strike on the CSN tracker, as well as WGN’s and Brooks Baseball’s. But it wasn’t a strike to Hunter Wendelstedt, perhaps because Heyward didn’t swing and Navarro turned it into a pitch in the dirt.

That kept the inning alive long enough to set up a situation where ...

No. 2: Robin Ventura asked too much from a starter.

Through the Heyward at-bat, Ventura undertook a reasonable risk by extending Ranaudo into the seventh, even though his track record and pitch command weren’t on his side. Montero and Russell were retired easily enough, and Heyward, slugging .315 this season, wasn’t a threat to tie the game by himself.

After the 2-2 call didn’t go Ranaudo’s way, and before he bounced a curve in the dirt on his 101st pitch to walk Heyward, the CSN broadcast showed how much Ranaudo was running on fumes.

But Ventura didn’t put Ranaudo away wet until after Ranaudo faced Javier Baez, who hammered a rolling curve on 3-2 to make the game 3-1.

No. 3: The bullpen spoiled a lesson.

Between Zach Duke, Carson Fulmer and Jacob Turner, White Sox relievers retired only one of the first eight Cubs that came to the plate after Ranaudo left the game.

Turner doesn’t really count, as the White Sox weren’t going to use any more critical relievers in a game that couldn’t be salvaged. Fulmer was the troubling one. After retiring Dexter Fowler to get out of the seventh -- he should’ve been the one to face Baez -- he started the eight by drilling Bryant on the elbow, and he spent the rest of the inning missing dramatically armside more often than not:

Based on what we’ve seen from Fulmer over his first four games, he appears to be unable to correct himself during an inning. When he’s good, he’s good:

  • First two games: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K

But when he’s off, he’s off.

  • Next two games: 1 IP, 3 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, 1 HBP

Granted, J.B. Shuck should’ve caught Ben Zobrist’s deep drive to left center, but I don’t think an out would have solved his problems (and it would’ve scored a run anyway).

The White Sox kinda needed Fulmer to give Ventura a right-handed option before the ninth inning that isn’t Nate Jones. Without that, it’s just another area the White Sox are fatally thin -- as evidenced by Shuck being the center fielder in that situation — which leads Ventura into situations where he feels he can’t trust going to the bullpen over a spot starter with a 17.18 ERA facing a lineup for a fourth time.

This is the kind of circular hell White Sox fans have watched this season. Roster problems beget in-game problems, which beget roster problems, which beget in-game problems. The one way out of this loop probably requires steps the franchise has been unwilling to take.