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White Sox dig early hole, fall to Padres, 7-6

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Carson Fulmer struggles, Fernando Tatis Jr. doesn’t

San Diego Padres Photo Day
Devil Inside: This is the smile of a man who knows something you don’t.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Projected Chicago White Sox fifth starter Carson Fulmer came into today’s game against the San Diego Padres looking to improve on his previous outing, in which he gave up a leadoff homer en route to four runs in an inning of work. Fulmer today gave up a leadoff homer on the way to a total of four runs in an inning of work.

They say the most important thing for players to work on in spring training is consistency, and by that measure Fulmer is having one hell of a spring.

The Friars’ Manuel Margot kicked off the game with a home run hit up into the menacing ’zona jetstream on an 0-2 pitch from Fulmer, though the ball looked to have enough clout to leave the park even on the calmest day. After watching the opening salvo fly over his head, left fielder Nicky Delmonico got a bit more involved, catching the next two first-pitch fly balls of the bats of Carlos Asuaje and Cory Spangenberg, though the Spongy Green Crab’s ball took Delmonico all the way to the top of the outfield wall.

Clearly concerned with San Diego’s early flexing, Fulmer decided the best course of action was to avoid throwing strikes altogether, as he issued 12 straight balls to Christian Villanueva, Franchy Cordero, and Hunter Renfroe. Reverting back to his previous and comparatively successful strategy, Fulmer did manage to issue a first-pitch strike to a mysterious and unknown Padres farmhand, Fernando Tatis Jr.

Tatis leaped like a leopard out of the bush at the offering, and drove a ground ball up the middle to plate two runs, giving the Padres a 3-0 lead. Fulmer then stopped messing around and ended the frame with a three-pitch punchout of Josh Naylor.

When Fulmer pitches, an ulcer forms. This is not just some overly dramatic prose, dear reader. This is a serious conspiracy that has been hiding under our very noses. Rearrange the letters in “Carson Fulmer” and you will unearth “forms an ulcer.” One letter shared between these phrases would be mere chance. Two would be a coincidence. Three is a pattern. Twelve letters is clear and irrefutable evidence of a deep-rooted plot to take down the White Sox by installing sleeper agents in their ranks. Fulmer himself is likely unaware of this conditioning, buried deep within his subconscious. We can only hope that veteran pitching coach Don Cooper has seen such anagramming wickedness before, and is able to break its hold over him.

Fulmer trended positively in opening the second inning; rather than issuing a leadoff dinger, he walked A.J. Ellis on four pitches. However, that was followed by first-pitch singles from Margot and Asuaje, bringing a premature end to Fulmer’s afternoon. All told, the young righty allowed four runs, all earned, in an inning-plus of work.

Hector Santiago was effective in relief, cleaning up Fulmer’s mess in the second and retiring every Padre but Tatis in the third and fourth. The lefty screwballer is experiencing a spring renaissance so far in his second run with the Sox, with a glistening 1.13 ERA through eight innings of work.

Santiago exited in the top of the fifth, after Franchy Cordero knocked him out with a leadoff double. Jeanmar Gomez replaced Santiago but was unable to stop that Tatis guy, as Cordero scored on Tatis’ third single of the day.

After the White Sox had been completely stymied by two scoreless innings apiece from Padres starter Joey Lucchesi and guy-wearing-the-number-80-and-definitely-not-named-Matt Eric Lauer, the time was right for a counterattack.

Chicago clawed back two runs in the bottom half of the fifth, stringing together a walk from Welington Castillo with a misplay from Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva, as Yolmer Sanchez’s ground ball went right through Villanueva’s legs to score Castillo. Adam Engel beat out an infield single to try to keep things rolling, but with two down, Kevan Smith forgot that fast guys are fast and catchers aren’t, making the last out trying to reach third on Engel’s tap.

The sixth inning passed quietly, but in the seventh Thyago Viera showed some cracks and the Padres struck again, with Tatis again providing the firepower. Viera issued walks to Villanueva and Cordero, and Tatis’ sharply-hit double plated them both to give the Padres a hefty 7-2 lead. Tatis would end his day going 4-for-4, with five RBI.

Castillo, clearly having none of it against these Padres pitchers, mashed himself a mighty tater out to left (with less wind assistance than was available earlier in the game, so there). Unfortunately for the Sox, fellow big beef boy Delmonico was unable to to follow suit, as he struck out and left the hopes of a comeback on the shoulders of Mighty Slugger Engel. Sanchez and Smith knew the truth: Only Engel’s power could hope to bring the Sox closer, and they both willed their way to four-pitch walks. Engel didn’t disappoint, blistering a line drive into the left-field corner that stayed fair for a three-run homer, drawing the White Sox to 7-6.

Unfortunately for the Good Guys, the seventh-inning crooked number did not foretell another come-from-behind victory. Instead, the lineup held a K parade, striking out for all six outs in the eighth and ninth innings. Say this much, though, the fellas whiffed in true Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit fashion, striking out swinging all six times.

San Diego hurlers managed to solve a puzzle few spring clubs have so far; Chicago entered play with a .302 team average, but could muster just five hits this afternoon. Strikeouts, however, were in abundance: 15 all told, led by Avisail Garcia’s hat trick.

The White Sox now stand at 5-5, two games out of first place.