Enjoy this week’s feature, the Worst Games of 2022.
Cleveland Guardians 11, Chicago White Sox 1 (doubleheader opener)
Five Errors and Too Much Keuchel
White Sox Record: 6-4
Championship Leverage Index: 1.20
We didn’t know it at the time, of course, but this was the first true taste of how bad things could get. Despite shenanigans like “tweeting empty room memes with Vince Velasquez starting the home opener,” the Sox had still worked their way to 6-2, then 6-4 entering a highly-anticipated Wednesday afternoon doubleheader after a two-day layoff.
We were ready for some baseball.
Then Tim Anderson opened the game with back-to-back errors, the first of many instances in a bizarre and perhaps disappointing season in which his focus — along with half the clubhouse’s — appeared scattered. Boom, a third error to open the second inning. We were moving quickly into “yips” territory. Not what you want with Dallas Keuchel on the mound.
The hits started coming. And coming. And coming. Was Keuchel as washed as he appeared in 2021 and spring training 2022? We had an answer. Nine runs later, whatever hopes we had of some pleasant, leisurely afternoon baseball were dead and buried.
That was a moment in which many of the fears we had about the team after the lackluster offseason began to look like they might be realized. As would be the case all year, they were outclassed in every phase by the Guardians: Shane Bieber punched out seven in six one-run innings, and while Keuchel wasn’t fit to be on an MLB roster in any case, more than one of the 10 hits he was dinged with was a product of less-than-ideal defensive positioning.
We love omens, don’t we?
Cleveland Guardians 12, Chicago White Sox 9 (11 innings)
The Josh Naylor Game
White Sox Record: 14-14
Championship Leverage Index: 1.08
This was probably the worst and most demoralizing losses I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing as a fan. The White Sox were riding a hot, six-game win streak in early May, after sweeping the Cubs and the Red Sox and finally turning it around after a morale-killing, eight-game losing streak a couple of weeks prior.
Gavin Sheets propelled the offense with a three-run blast early in the game, to give Michael Kopech some run support for his two-hit outing over his six innings. The South Siders seemingly set themselves up for a win, especially after AJ Pollock tattooed his own three-run shot in the eighth to increase the lead to 8-2 over Cleveland.
You only need three more outs, you have a six-run lead, and the 2021 American League Reliever of the Year is coming in to close things out ... that is pretty much the definition of a best-case scenario. But of course, the White Sox are gonna White Sox. How lucky of me to witness in-person a disastrous Liam Hendriks meltdown AND Josh Naylor single-handedly ending our season in just three at-bats.
Naylor previously had an RBI double in the game to score the Guardians’ second run, but nothing compares to the havoc he wreaked in the ninth inning. Andrés Giménez kicked off the ninth with a solo shot, but it’s fine, right? We still had a five-run lead, whatever. The errors definitely caught up to the Sox in the ninth (they had four in the game, by the way), setting the stage for a Josh Naylor grand slam to tie the game, 8-8.
I was there in right field, and I still can’t believe that was a real thing I actually witnessed.
Naturally, the South Siders couldn’t get it done in the ninth, so they strung us along for two more innings — tying the game again in the 10th — until Naylor officially put them out of their misery in the 11th with yet another home run, a three-run shot. He finished the game with eight RBIs.
It was almost impressive to blow a lead like that and lose the way they did, if it weren’t so sad. But that right there pretty much marked the end of the season in my eyes, and how poetic of it to come at the hands of Cleveland — foreshadowing them actually ending our season in September.
This game still gives me nightmares, and is unfortunately burned into my memory forever. And I’m still waiting for my refund from that game, Jerry.
Boston Red Sox 16, Chicago White Sox 3
The Other Side of Dylan Cease
White Sox Record: 21-21
Championship Leverage Index: 1.03
I am not one to leave games early, but this is one that I wanted to leave very early, and could not. Dylan Cease entered this game with a 3.09 ERA and proceeded to give up seven earned runs to a struggling Boston offense over just the first three innings. This would be the most runs Cease would give up all season and the highest his ERA (4.24) would get.
What made this game even worse? My dad bought a scoreboard message for my brother and his friend, congratulating them on graduating high school (very nice of Eric), and we had to wait until the eighth inning for the message to be displayed. Needless to say, we left immediately after we got a picture of the scoreboard.
Boston Red Sox 16, Chicago White Sox 7
Dallas Keuchel Is Run Out of Town
White Sox Record: 22-22
Championship Leverage Index: 0.98
Ah yes, my first White Sox game in person in about a decade, and it was genuinely awful (and on my birthday, no less). Dallas Keuchel gave up six runs in the first two innings, and really, that’s all that you need to know. The score was “close” for a while, but there was no doubt about who was winning that game — and their Sox were not white. This was the second time in three days the pitching staff gave up 16 runs, and to top it all off there was a rain delay, too.
This game was so bad, and so terribly long, that my parents and I left the game in the seventh inning, and the game was still going on after a 45-minute drive home. We did get the debut of Josh Harrison the Pitcher, but outside of that, nothing to see here but some bad baseball.
Thankfully, mercifully, that was the last start Dallas Keuchel made in a White Sox uniform, and he was DFA’d twice more by other teams after the White Sox dumped him. Good riddance, Dallas, you ruined my birthday.
Los Angeles Dodgers 11, Chicago White Sox 9
Tony La Russa 1-2 Intentional Walk, Part 1
White Sox Record: 26-29
Championship Leverage Index: 0.84
Ah, the game where Tony burned the last bridge he could with me. I was never a fan of the hire, but I decided after 2021 that no matter how bad the hire, a manager doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things as long as the players were doing the right things on the field.
Well, this team did not do the right things on the field, which meant that La Russa had a lot to make up for. Instead, he constantly made baffling decisions that I can almost guarantee no one else in baseball would’ve made.
And then, this happened. I was in the right-field foul line stands for this one, and everyone around me was confused with what we just witnessed: Two strikes on Trea Turner, and you walk him??? And of course, Max Muncy makes TLR pay for the folly in an instant, hitting a three-run blast that took the game from 7-5 Dodgers to 10-5 in the top of the sixth inning.
Not only did the HOFBP decision not work out at all, but how much does a decision like that kill your pitcher’s confidence? All Bennett Sousa had to do was throw one strike and THE INNING IS OVER, TONY. And then there was his press conference afterwards where he DOUBLED DOWN ON A DECISION THAT OBVIOUSLY DID NOT WORK.
Also, Mookie Betts went 0-for-6, and seeing Mookie was the main reason I even wasted my time and money to go to that game. Thank (insert your choice of savior) that this season is over.
Texas Rangers 11, Chicago White Sox 9
Big Leads Blown, FIRE TONY Chants Arise
White Sox Record: 27-30
Championship Leverage Index: 0.86
It was mid-June, and Sox fans were beyond frustrated. The team was lifeless, 27-29, and in third place in the AL Central, five games back of first. This was not the team that anyone expected or wanted. Tony La Russa hadn’t fallen asleep in the dugout yet, but he was managing like it.
The Sox went up early in the game, 5-0, but the lead diminished when Lucas Giolito gave up four runs in the top of the fifth inning. In the bottom of the fifth, the Sox rebounded and scored two more runs, making it 7-4. However, that lead wouldn’t last, and the Rangers tagged the Sox bullpen for three runs to tie it, 7-7, after the top of the seventh inning. The Sox offense couldn’t push ahead again and the game headed to extra innings.
The Rangers kicked Matt Foster around, and he surrendered four runs in the top of the 10th inning. The Sox lost, 11-9, and fans were fed up with the lackluster, unprepared, and sloppy play.
Most Sox fans were not behind the La Russa hiring from Day 1, and at this point, there probably was not a fan to be found anywhere who saw the value of him remaining in the dugout. This game was the tipping point, and after the Sox blew the lead in the top of the 10th inning, fans literally LOST IT!
Loud and clear on the broadcast, you could hear the “Fire Tony” chants rumble throughout the stadium. The fans’ reaction was 100% deserved, given that a 77-year-old manager was brought out of retirement and shoved down your throat in a contention window. At this point in the season, the Sox front office had the opportunity to admit their experiment was a failure and fire Tony, but we all know now that it did not happen.
It’s hard not to think about what the season could have been like with a competent manager at the helm. Hopefully, we’ll see it in 2023.
Minnesota Twins 6, Chicago White Sox 3
First 8-5 Triple Play in History
White Sox Record: 38-40
Championship Leverage Index: 0.94
Six games back. Coming into this game, both the Sox and the Guardians were looking up at the always-irritating Minnesota Twins. The Twinkies seemed like they might run away with the division, a fate too gross and irksome to consider. But the Sox had been playing some of their worst ball at the end of June, and everything was slipping away.
A sweep of the Giants throughout the long holiday weekend gave some spark, and one could start to imagine a little run, a little spark, the beginning of something good. Baseball is weird and wonderful like that, a possibility in every pitch.
(Here we should pause and note that the idea of the game itself was strange and muted, on the terrible July 4, where we had spent all day watching the horrors of the news, and I could hear helicopters overhead, just north in Highland Park, where America had once again let loose its awful talons.)
The game was hard-fought. In the seventh the Sox were down, 2-1, but strung together three straight hits to tie it up with runners on first and second with nobody out. They’d been bad at situations like “having men on base” and “having nobody out” and “doing basic baseball things” all year. But hell, maybe this was different.
AJ Pollock stood at the plate and laced one to the deepest part of center field. Off the bat, it seemed like it wouldn’t be enough for a four-bagger, but you could see it lacing into a gap and scoring two. The runners thought so. And even more so, you could see this being the spark, a huge inning turns into a win, turns into a winning series, turns the season around. The ball was hit, and the season might have shifted.
But you know, it hung a bit, and Byron Buxton is one of the best. He made a not-easy catch look easy. And it turned out the the Sox runners also thought it was hit hard, was going to catch a gap. They might have thought, oh yeah, this is it, let’s fucking go.
Nope. Triple play. Maybe the easiest and most anti-climatic triple play ever. The second Buxton caught it, the deal was done. Momentum gone. The Sox looked a laughingstock again. It was a very important lesson in not tricking yourself into believing. Maybe if the ball was hit just a bit harder or Buxton’s jump was a bit slower, we would have been playing the Phillies in November, champagne on ice.
But that’s not how it worked. And that’s not how baseball worked. Even if it is pretty to think so.
Texas Rangers 8, Chicago White Sox 0
Steve Stone Gets Off of the Ride
White Sox Record: 54-53
Championship Leverage Index: 0.90
I do not doubt that the other fine folks of South Side Sox found games that were perhaps measurably or emotionally worse than this game. After all, as disappointing as the 2021 White Sox were, it’s difficult to pin down a single “worst” moment.
Even so, three things were particularly notable about the White Sox losing 8-0 to the Texas Rangers on August 6:
- Despite knowing Dane Dunning as well as any team could know him, the White Sox weren’t able to hit him.
- It was the beginning of the end of Michael Kopech’s season.
- It was the first sign of a broken Steve Stone during the broadcast.
Dunning entered the game against the White Sox with the same issues that plagued him during his tenure with his former team — less-than-stellar command and being prone to leaving pitches up. With a 4.84 ERA and being winless in his last 15 starts, it was a fair assumption to think that Dunning would be just what the struggling White Sox offense needed.
Because it’s the White Sox, quite the opposite happened. Instead, Dunning dominated the White Sox and only allowed one hit in seven innings while throwing 103 pitches. His ERA had dropped to 4.04 when he was mercifully removed from the game.
It never seemed like the White Sox or their manager were aware enough to be embarrassed, but this is as close as one could get.
Meanwhile, Kopech, who Stone warned was “hitting a wall”— in fairness, everyone outside of the White Sox organization was aware of this— struggled after the first two frames. In another shining example of Kopech’s workload wearing him down, the righthander went from outperforming Dunning in a pitcher’s duel to being unable to get an out and being removed for José Ruiz in the fourth inning.
Add a Yoán Moncada error and some interesting bullpen management to the mix, and it was all too much for even Captain Ride Enjoyer Steve Stone. Stone’s frustrations over the lackadaisical effort shown by the players and lack of execution came to a head, and he sounded more like Hawk Harrelson in a down year than the overly-confident Twitter sage persona.
Chicago White Sox 4, Houston Astros 2
Managing From the Stands
White Sox Record: 60-56
Championship Leverage Index: 1.02
Year of the Hamster
A win falling among the worst games? OK, when there are 81 losses, I should have been able to pick a loss. But this game, featuring Tony La Russa calling for Adam Engel to pinch-run for Eloy Jiménez on second base only after a fan starting calling for it from outside the dugout represented a lot of what was so bad about La Russa’s second tenure with the team. Namely, even in a victory, there was something to mock and criticize about the White Sox.
But more than that, with a normal manager, this would have had a whole different tenor (OK, with a normal manager, fans wouldn’t have to call for a pinch-runner). If this was Ricky Renteria or daresay Pedro Grifol, you might see a point or a smile of acknowledgement. Reporters after the game would feel comfortable asking about it. And you certainly wouldn’t run the risk of getting decked by some HOFBP sanctimony, as too often came from Tony.
Leave it to La Russa to ensure that even a win over the eventual world champs left a bad taste.
And in case you think this was all manufactured, and Tony was ready to send Adam in as a razor-sharp HOFer, let’s go to the tape:
Cleveland Guardians 5, Chicago White Sox 2
Tony La Russa 1-2 Intentional Walk, The Sequel
White Sox Record: 61-59
Championship Leverage Index: 1.24
Call for an intentional walk on 1-2, fool me once. Call for an intentional walk on 1-2, you’re just a troll — or an asshole. After melting down in the seventh inning (Chicago’s 2-1 lead was now a 5-2 deficit), the skipper defied all convention and common baseball knowledge by putting on Oscar González at 1-2 after a steal of third base/passed ball to second base put ducks on the pond from first and second. To La Russa’s credit, this time the strategy “worked,” as the next batter, Owen Miller, flew out.
Great confidence booster for Jake Diekman, the pitcher forced into the walk, huh? One less obvious narrative in all of the 1-2 IBB controversy is the message it sends to pitchers themselves — a vote of NO CONFIDENCE in you to get a single strike.
Afterward, La Russa was obstinate and defensive in addressing the move: “We’ve been through this before, the most ridiculous thing in this season has been [reaction to] the 1-2 walk. I mean that’s the most ridiculous … I mean, I don’t want to get into it, man. Gets me upset.”
Baltimore Orioles 4, Chicago White Sox 3 (11 innings)
The Adam Engel Drop
White Sox Record: 63-62
Championship Leverage Index: 0.97
Although the AL Central was weak, it was beginning to slip away from the White Sox. The Guardians entered the day four games ahead of the South Siders, but the Guardians lost, so the White Sox had an opportunity to gain ground. After a clutch RBI single with two outs in the eighth by José Abreu, the White Sox were in the driver’s seat. Jimmy Lambert pitched a perfect eighth inning, and even though the White Sox were retired in order in the ninth, they had a 3-2 lead.At that point, Baseball-Reference gave the White Sox an 80% chance to win the game, and that felt too low given that Liam Hendriks entered the game to pitch the ninth. The White Sox’s odds improved when Hendriks got Anthony Santander to pop out, and after Ryan Mountcastle struck out, their win probability was up to 95%. Nobody on base, two outs in the ninth inning. You can do this, Liam.
Liam did do it. Hendriks forced a weak fly ball from rookie Kyle Stowers, and it should have been the last pitch of the game. The fly ball drifted down the left-field line, and Adam Engel, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement, chased after the ball. Engel got his glove on the it, but he seemed to take his eyes off of the ball for a split-second, and he could not come down with it. Stowers went on to launch a hanger from Hendriks over the wall in right-center, and the game was tied.
Jake Diekman, the team’s only addition at the trade deadline, allowed a walk-off single in the 11th because the baseball gods were feeling extra evil.
Cleveland Guardians 8, Chicago White Sox 2
White Sox Record: 76-73
Championship Leverage Index: 0.69
Though they’d suffered a heartbreaking loss in extra innings to Cleveland the preceding night, the White Sox showed a lot of fight regardless. Despite the situation looking grim, especially having lost the shot at the division tiebreaker, all hope was not lost, and a series win could still keep the White Sox in the division and postseason race.
But we know how this story ends.
The team that had been doggedly fighting to get back in the race for over a month went out as lifeless as they’d ever looked. Lance Lynn pitched OK, but was undone by bad defense behind him, with Yoán Moncada flubbing two plays in the first inning alone. The offense mustered no walks and only seven hits, with a solo homer by Moncada not undoing the earlier damage of his glove work.
After a season of stringing fans along, this was the loss that finally, emphatically told everyone that the season was, for all intents and purposes, over. There would be no parade. There would be no division title. Hell, there would be no postseason at all. Instead, the team would free-fall from a season-high five games better than .500 on September 18 to three games under on the 28th.
In the end, they were the same brand of mediocre they’ve always been.
Perhaps even more so.
What was the worst game of the 2022 season?
This poll is closed
April 20: TA and Keuchel meltdowns vs. Cleveland
May 9: The Josh Naylor Game
May 24: Cease gets rocked by Boston
May 26: Keuchel gets rocked by Boston, then is DFAd
June 9: 1-2 IBB to Dodgers
June 11: Blown lead to Texas fuels FIRE TONY
July 4: 8-5 triple play vs. Minnesota
August 6: Rangers break Steve Stone
August 15: Fans call for a pinch-runner vs. Houston
August 19: Tony’s second IBB, vs. Cleveland
August 25: Adam Engel’s drop vs. Baltimore
September 21: Cleveland kills all hope
None of the above, but I’ll share my vote in the comments