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Two steps back to take five steps forward

Fulmer, Sox shelled in five-run first, seeding 11-2 loss

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs
Patience, Backstopper: Castillo, not exactly known as selective, was the first White Sox hitter to apply some patience against the Cubs’s wild man starter, Tyler Chatwood.
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Ballantini started at South Side Sox in 2018 after 20 years of writing on basketball, baseball and hockey, including time on the Blackhawks and White Sox beats. Follow him on Twitter @BrettBallantini and email your site feedback to

Baseball’s worst, the Chicago White Sox, faced the hit stingy but walk happy (7.9 BB/9) Tyler Chatwood, and demonstrated little understanding of the challenge ahead of them.

The White Sox are bad, the Cubs good, however much we delight in the North Side Bumblers being in fourth place in a five-team division. The White Sox were missing their best offensive player, Yoan Moncada; playing in March weather (49 degrees, with a 17 mph wind at first pitch); and starting Carson Fulmer, who, in sabermetric vernacular / Don Cooper parlance, has sucked.

You’d think a key element of any pregame strategy session — with a weakened offensive attack, a poor starter throwing for you and adverse weather conditions — would be to let Chatwood throw some pitches, give away some outs — let him run into trouble of his own making. Odds were, at nearly a walk an inning, Chatwood would do just that.

The first five White Sox hitters:

  1. Surprise leadoff man Nicky Delmonico took two balls, then swung at the first pitch close (borderline inside strike) and grounded weakly to first.
  2. Leury García swung at the first pitch (a ball) and fouled it off, eventually worked an 0-2 count to 2-2, then grounded to second.
  3. José Abreu took a strike down the heart of the plate, then flailed at two out of the zone for a three-pitch K.
  4. Leading off the second inning down 5-0, surprise cleanup hitter Yolmer Sánchez took a strike, then bunted to the pitcher for an easy first out.
  5. Daniel Palka, who at this rate I speculated on Twitter might swing three times for a K on the first pitch, Bugs Bunny-style, showed uncommon restraint, taking three pitches to go to 1-2, then taking his first cut on a wormburner curve for the K.

Two innings, 23 pitches seen against Chatwood, one of the wildest pitchers in baseball.

That’s bad baseball.

On the gamethread, we had otherwise faithful viewers / commenters snapping off the game or getting curiously-timed “pings” for conference calls. What makes “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit” into goofy T-shirts and canny Hawkisms is that, at the core, the team cares to be better. They try. They’re learning.

Games like this eat at the core of the goofiest new metric eva, RBDQ.

The title of this recap is a line Steve Stone fed us during the broadcast, the everpresent reminder that the White Sox are rebuilding, in the process taking “two steps back to take five steps forward.”

Unquestionably, the White Sox have the first part — two steps back — down. Five steps forward remains to be seen. And while resisting the temptation to indict management over its “two steps back” roster as the kids are simmering on the farm, the poor strategy taken by Sox batters to lead off this game is not encouraging.

Fulmer did his part, as the cannon fodder we all feared he would be heading into a hostile Wrigley: seven pitches into the game, the Cubs had a lead. The struggling starter was yanked from the game 1 23 innings and 59 pitches in, and the most tragicomic part of that early hook was the fact that it wasn’t his shortest start of yhe season (one IP, Oakland).

Wait ... no, the most comic part of pulling Fulmer so early was Stone’s assertion that “Ricky Renteria is not gonna concede this ballgame.”

If true, Ricky should have consulted his hitters on strategy.

And while we’re there, for a guy who fairly demonstrably has benched at least two Garcías (Avisail and Leury) for non-hustle, what is the fan base to make of Renteria’s curious non-challenge on a pickoff at second base, where Matt Davidson was called out when it seemed pretty apparent he got back to the bag before Willson Contreras’ throw. The out blew a hole in any hope of an early rally back, and I’m fairly certain the White Sox did not end up using a challenge in the game.

So the White Sox filled one, maybe two full bingo cards of ugly in the game: Two runners easily thrown out at home plate; two errors that, per usual, could have totaled four or five; giveaway at-bats; and mediocre relief.

There were a lot of Cubs highlights, sure, like one guy having seven RBI, another guy clocking a mammoth homer, some other stuff, but seriously, if you’re reading the White Sox recap of a brutal 11-2 loss to the Cubs and need more deets on the Ivy Set, get yourself a mental health checkup.

With the loss the White Sox, at 9-26, now celebrate a special, 70-year anniversary, tying the 1948 White Sox for the worst 35-game start in franchise history.

James Shields starts tomorrow in what is forecasted to be 45 degrees and thunderstorming at first pitch. Everything is fine.