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South Side Soxivus: Worst Games of the Year

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No pithy branding for this one, just some rough memories recounting the worst contests of 2021.

Chicago White Sox v. New York Yankees
Playful.
Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With Grievances Aired at season’s end, then Feats of Strength to follow that up, and Games of the Year last week, the next phase of the celebration continues here with the Worst of the Year.

Stay tuned: There is one more celebration to come.


April 4: Angels 7, White Sox 4 (Shohei Ohtani’s two-way masterpiece, Jared Walsh walk-off)
Jeremy Karll

I didn’t remember Jared Walsh’s three-run walk-off home run on April 4, which dropped the White Sox to 1-3 (what would be a season-worst two games worse than .500) and sent some of the fan base into a frenzy after just one series. I mostly remembered this game for Shohei Ohtani. Not as much due to Twitter fawning over his once-in-a-generation talent (everyone should!) or the fact he struck out seven batters over 4 23 innings, while also homering at the plate (he killed everyone all year!) but more so the announcers. To no surprise, ESPN’s broadcast left a lot to be desired, especially since it seemed like they only researched Ohtani tidbits. Their love for Ohtani became unbearable, as they ignored the fact the White Sox tied it, 3-3, in the fifth, and 4-4 in the ninth. The only thing they could talk about was Ohtani. It was my lasting memory, and really the only thing I remembered from this game, evidenced by me looking at the box score and thinking, “Oh yeah, Walsh hit a walk-off, too.”

April 13: Cleveland 2, White Sox 0 (pitchers’ duel ends in a weak walk-off)
Joe Resis

On one hand, part of this game was quite intriguing. Lucas Giolito and Shane Bieber went head-to-head, and neither offense was swinging it well on this particular evening. As a result, the first several innings of this game were a thriller for fans who love pitchers’ duels. Both the White Sox ace and the reigning AL Cy Young winner lived up to the hype, and then some. Giolito pitched seven scoreless innings while striking out eight and only allowing three hits. Meanwhile, Bieber was even better, throwing nine shutout innings, striking out 11, and also only allowing three hits. While the matchup between the two star pitchers was entertaining, Nick Williams batting fifth and Jake Lamb at designated hitter were suboptimal options. Neither of them stood a chance against Bieber.

In addition, this was the game when the bad “Manfred man” (each team starting extra innings with a free runner on second base) reared its ugly head more than any other I can recall. With both teams scoreless entering the 10th, Cleveland opened its half of the inning with Franmil Reyes at second base and Josh Naylor at the plate. Naylor reached on an error by pitcher Garrett Crochet, and suddenly, the go-ahead run was on third. Fortunately, Crochet got Yu Chang to fly out to shallow right, and Reyes had to hold at third. Also, fortunately, Cleveland catcher Roberto Pérez hit a soft ground ball ... but it found a gap between shortstop and third. His grounder left the bat at 71.3 mph, and the expected batting average was .040, but did not matter. Just like that, the scoreless tie was broken. How anticlimactic. Cleveland went on to tack on an insurance run on a double by Amed Rosario, and the White Sox went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th.

While the Manfred man led to a very boring and undeserved first run of the game, the White Sox should have managed more than just three measly singles in nine innings against Bieber. This was an early test for the offense against a star pitcher, and thanks to Giolito, little was required from the offense to win. Unfortunately, it was not up to the task.


May 2: Cleveland 5, White Sox 0 (Luis Robert’s hip injury)
Chrystal O’Keefe

It’s a beautiful day in May, fans are finally back at the ballpark enjoying the sites and smells as the sun beams down on their skin. Lucas Giolito is on the mound against Cleveland with a measly 0.89 ERA in six starts so far. Adam Eaton is not starting. Sounds magical, right? Sorry, it’s actually about to turn into the worst day ever.

The second inning brings heartbreak as we watch Luis Robert appear to trip over first base, but later realize he was limping before even getting to the base. Down he goes, like my hopes and dreams. My hips aren’t great but he can have them, I thought, pacing my living room. César Hernández, still with Cleveland, strikes first with a home run. Zach Plesac and Co. held down the White Sox, who continued to strand runners while making Little League errors.

While Giolito was great through six, the bullpen and lack of run support — and, well, the deflated mood from Robert’s strained hip flexor, gave Cleveland the advantage, walking away with the series and a four-hit shutout.


May 17: White Sox 16, Twins 4 (Yermín Mercedes gets scolded in a rout)
Keelin Billue

The White Sox were beating the previously-formidable Minnesota Twins, 15-4, in the ninth inning. The Twins brought in position player Willians Astudillo to pitch, and Yermín Mercedes hit a home run off of a 3-0 pitch, an act that is breaking one of baseball’s “unwritten rules.” The game ended 16-4. It was a comforting feeling for White Sox fans who had begin to wonder if “The Yerminator” was going to continue Yerminating (spoiler alert: he did not).

While the game itself was positive for the White Sox, the aftermath of the game is what will be remembered. When speaking to the press after the game, Tony La Russa shared that Mercedes made a “big mistake” and missed a take sign on 3-0. La Russa further added that “There’ll be a consequence that he’ll have to endure,” and that he had apologized to the Twins.

Reactions to the game were divisive among fans, and seemingly in the clubhouse, with Tim Anderson and Lance Lynn making statements that diverged from La Russa’s statements (in Lynn’s case, it prompted the memorable line from Tony that Lance has a locker, while he has an office). It was a moment of weakness for the team, and a notable launching point in the downfall of Yermín.


May 18: Twins 5, White Sox 4 (Miguel Sanó hits three homers, bullpen melts down in walk-off)
Adrian Serrano

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times? It shouldn’t ever get to that point, but as we have seen many times from the likes of José Ramírez, Nelson Cruz, Michael Brantley, and others, the White Sox can take a little longer than expected to learn their lessons about challenging certain hitters. Miguel Sanó wouldn’t necessarily be part of this conversation, but he does generally have only one skill: Hitting dingers. So, when a guy who is only up there to hit homers has already hit two in a game (with exit velocities of 99 mph and 109.7 mph, respectively), you may want to chalk it up to it being his day, and maybe let someone else beat you. It almost makes too much sense.

Fast forward to the eighth inning, with one out and first base open. Rather than at least pitch around Sanó, at worst ending up with a chance at a double play from ground ball tosser Aaron Bummer, the White Sox instead chose to challenge Sanó with sinkers in the zone, with obvious results. Some 412 feet and 106.4 mph later, Chicago’s two-run lead had been erased. You can certainly make an argument that the pitcher needs to do his job and get hitters out, but hitters get paid, too, and it’s up to the coaching staff to put players in position to succeed. Moving forward, the Sox did nothing in the ninth, and Liam Hendriks entered a game in which he was originally mentally prepared to be a save situation, and the short story is that the Sox lost a game that they could have, and probably should have, won.

This game obviously didn’t cost them the AL Central title, but it was definitely a microcosm of many questionable decisions when it came to the tactical decisions by the manager, particularly when it came to utilizing the bullpen. This would be an issue that continued through the entirety of the 2021 season and playoffs. In a season where the White Sox were shorthanded more often than not, they squandered far too many games where they got unexpected production from people like Jake Lamb, who hitting just .176, chipped in a home run and a run scored in this one, just to have the late lead disappear. Finishing the season just seven wins behind Tampa Bay for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and one game behind Houston to host the ALDS, you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if some of these tactical issues were tightened up sooner.


June 22: Pirates 6, White Sox 3 (season-long, five-game losing streak)
Jeremy Karll

This loss to Pittsburgh could be seen as a blip in a 162-game schedule, a hiccup that every team is bound to make during a long season. But it’s more of what the fifth straight loss represented during Chicago’s roughest patch of the first half of the season. Less than a week earlier, the White Sox had taken two of three games from Tampa Bay to vault them to the best record in baseball. Then, the four-game sweep in Houston happened, and it snowballed to a loss to the lowly Pirates that saw Garrett Crochet give up four runs without recording an out. It took the White Sox until the seventh inning to score against Tyler Anderson, who would finish with a 4.53 ERA this season, and that was only due to Yasmani Grandal’s three-run blast. Then, Crochet coughed up the lead. Every team goes through offensive slumps, but not breaking out of it against the 25-45 Pirates after a lifeless performance in Houston that followed its most exciting series win to date capped a bad week of White Sox baseball.


August 28: Cubs 7, White Sox 0 (The Patrick F***ing Wisdom Game)
Jacki Krestel

It’s one thing to lose to the Chicago Cubs. It’s quite another to get outright embarrassed by them. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to the White Sox on this night.

On paper, the White Sox should have been able to phone this one in. Future ALDS Game 1 starter and Cy Young candidate Lance Lynn was on the mound against guys like copstache aficionado Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel, whom Twitter users agree cannot be a real person. Negative-WAR righthander Alec Mills would face a lineup with the likes of José Abreu, Tim Anderson, and Eloy Jiménez. It should have been easy.

It was anything but.

Wisdom was the star of the game, hitting two home runs and racking up defensive gems at third base. Mills spent 8 ⅓ innings making White Sox hitters look silly before the Cubs poured salt in our open wound by handing things over to recently-departed Codi Heuer. Heuer closed things out by getting the White Sox to hit into their 12th and 13th ground outs of the day.

The worst part of this game wasn’t that the Sox lost to their crosstown rivals, but that it was indicative of the kind of losses the team would suffer for the rest of the season. As we later discovered, this was the same caliber of team that we saw in the ALDS.

Ugh.


October 8: Astros 9, White Sox 4 (ALDS Game 2)
Zach Hayes

There are lots of self-inflicted lows throughout this article, but this was the knockout punch.

There was no moment that the White Sox were closer to the ALCS than entering the top of the sixth inning in Game 2. They had a two-run lead and had chased Framber Valdez from the game. To take home-field advantage in a best-of-three series, all they needed was 12 outs from a bullpen that had seemingly been constructed exactly for this purpose.

Things just didn’t go as planned. Once Lucas Giolito — who almost certainly shouldn’t have been allowed to start the inning — walked José Altuve to begin the sixth, the Sox ran out of places to kick the can down the road. Even though we saw baffling decisions like letting Giolito scuffle and the choice of Garrett Crochet to replace him plenty of times throughout the season, this was the one occasion there was no coming back from. Aaron Bummer having difficulty finding the plate and Sox infielders being poorly positioned to field his ground balls wasn’t new; there was just no time left to fix it. By October 10, we knew what Craig Kimbrel was going to give us, and we were helpless to watch him do the same thing he did to close games all fall, except this time with no tomorrow.

If, for just a little while, we were able to close our eyes, enjoy the ride, and pretend that the fault lines we saw all summer wouldn’t turn into cracks come October, Game 2 was the moment that it was became impossible to advance.

There can only be one — and that was more or less when we knew that the White Sox would not be the One.


October 12: Astros 10, White Sox 1 (ALDS Game 4)
Tommy Barbee

“This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes again.”
-The Doors, “The End”

In a drama-filled MLB postseason full of comebacks and close games, the 2021 White Sox were the one team to go out with a whimper instead of a fight. However, in a largely-lopsided Division Series against the Houston Astros, the White Sox showed signs of life in their comeback win in Game 3. After Game 3, there was a sense of optimism that perhaps the White Sox offense would show signs of competence, and there might be some fire left in the team’s belly after all.

Nope. Lance McCullers Jr. and the Astros bats convincingly delivered the finishing blow with a 10-1 victory over the White Sox that felt like a very fitting nail in the coffin for a team that, frankly, looked lethargic for much of the second half of the season, despite getting healthier.

It wasn’t all bad— Gavin Sheets had two hits, including a home run. The White Sox, in total, scattered seven hits. Even so, there was a feeling of certainty once the Astros took the lead in the third inning. Carlos Rodón still didn’t look right, and struggled with his command to give up two runs while walking two in just two innings. From there, the notorious misuse of Michael Kopech was once again on full display, and with the game getting out of hand, La Russa was grasping straws in hopes of finding magic in the bullpen that didn’t exist.

For a team that should have matched pretty evenly with the Astros on paper, the White Sox were outclassed in every way, managing included. It would have been a fitting end for a weird chapter in White Sox history, but it looks like Jerry Reinsdorf’s friend will get another shot in 2022.


Poll

What was the worst White Sox game of the 2021 season?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    April 4: Shohei Ohtani and Jared Walsh drop Sox to 1-3
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    April 13: Bieber outduels Giolito in Manfred man loss
    (0 votes)
  • 7%
    May 2: Luis Robert tears his hip in Cleveland loss
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    May 17: Sox win, but Yermín gets a-paddlin’
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    May 18: Sanó’s 3 HR, bad pen, walk-off loss
    (2 votes)
  • 5%
    June 22: Pittsburgh loss a season-high fifth straight
    (4 votes)
  • 11%
    August 28: The Patrick Wisdom loss to the Cubs
    (8 votes)
  • 36%
    October 8: ALDS Game 2
    (25 votes)
  • 33%
    October 12: ALDS Game 4
    (23 votes)
  • 0%
    None of the above (please name your game in the comments below)
    (0 votes)
69 votes total Vote Now