Tony La Russa called the first game after the All-Star break “one of the most intriguing games of the season.”
“Because you really don’t know what you’re going to get, whatever the team is,” the Chicago White Sox manager said before Friday’s game against the Cleveland Guardians. “Suddenly, it turns back on.”
The Guardians came out swinging, taking advantage of some gaping hits before Andres Gimenez’s two-run homer during a four-run first.
The Sox never recovered, losing 8-2 in the opener of a four-game weekend series in front of 31,379 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The teams play a split doubleheader on Saturday, with the first game at 12:10 p.m. and the last cup at 6:15 p.m.
“You go in a couple, you hit a couple of blind ground balls. It’s part of the game,” La Russa said. “They had it in their favor early. They jumped ahead. It could have been us, but it happened to them.
“I don’t think that was part of the first day back. The luck of the vulture. Sometimes it’s because of you. Sometimes it’s against you.”
Sox starter Lucas Giolito (6-6) allowed six runs and nine hits in just three innings.
“It was tough,” Giolito said. “It’s never fun to give up a bunch of runs early and nine hits. It’s hard to assess because a lot of the hits weren’t hard. I felt like they were relatively well-executed releases.
“The ones I would really like to get back are the home run, a bad first pitch changeup and the first hit of the game was not the best slider for (Steven) Kwan. Other than that, it was as if she had to go back and look at him. Maybe I need to sequence better or execute a little better. Just unlucky.
The Sox had a chance to break .500 for the first time since May 26, when they were 22-21.
Instead, they fell below .500 to 46-47 and are two games behind the Guardians, who sit second in the AL Central. The Red Sox are 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins.
“I’m still working on the settings and mechanical things that I need to work on, especially with the bottom half,” Giolito said. “But it was just a tough start. It sucks. It’s a results game, and getting poor results, putting our team in a hole, I have to find a way to be better.”
Two of the Guardians’ four hits in the first had exit speeds of less than 80 mph, according to MLB Statcast.
José Ramírez’s bloop hit to left that landed just right, with an exit velocity of 78.6 mph, gave the Guardians runners on second and third with one out. Josh Naylor drove in a run with a single with an exit speed of 74.8 mph.
Ramírez scored on Owen Miller’s sacrifice fly to shallow center field. The Sox appealed to third, hoping Ramirez would get off base early. Third base umpire Edwin Moscoso ruled that Ramírez was correctly tagged.
Giménez hit the first pitch after the appeal over the right-field wall for a two-run homer. And so the Sox trailed 4-0.
“You saw the same rally I did,” La Russa said. “How many balls were hit hard? Two hard, but the others well placed. The ground ball passed. They hit three bloopers, one of them (Adam) Engel making the catch.
“It’s a difficult way to start the game. You initiate a less than good contact and you don’t get an exit. That’s what I saw. That’s four runs, and two more (next inning). It wasn’t his day.”
The Guardians scored two more runs in the second.
“Because of them, they put the bat on the ball and found holes and ran a four-run first inning and a couple more runs in the next inning and then I was done after three,” Giolito said.
Giolito left after 64 pitches.
“At that point, it’s better to turn the page,” La Russa said. “He had done his part and we stayed in the game. He knows we needed tickets. He definitely wanted to go back there. Sometimes it’s just not your day.”
Meanwhile, the Red Sox didn’t take advantage of early opportunities. They had runners on first and second with two outs in the first and they didn’t score. The first two batters reached in the second, but a double play and a strikeout ended the threat.
The first two batters reached in the third. The Sox came with a run on a double by José Abreu and another on a ground ball by Yasmani Grandal, who returned from the disabled list Friday.
But after collecting five hits in the first three innings, the Red Sox had just two more the rest of the way.
The Guardians have won four in a row. His last loss was Giolito and the Sox 2-1 on July 13. Giolito allowed one unearned run and five hits in 6⅓ innings in that outing, the last before the All-Star Game. But the Sox couldn’t duplicate that success on Friday.
“I’ve made some good adjustments, but I’ve got a lot more in the tank than I’m showing,” Giolito said. “It’s frustrating because I’m probably just missing a little adjustment that I haven’t made yet.”