Chicago White Sox begin a big series against the Cleveland Guardians with a 5-2 loss, falling 3½ games behind the division leaders



Reynaldo López’s slider was low and inside, well off the plate.

It didn’t matter to Steven Kwan, who hit the pitch into the right-field corner for a tying triple for the Cleveland Guardians on Friday at Progressive Field.

Amed Rosario hit López’s next offering to left for a run-scoring single. And just like that, a lead became a deficit for the Chicago White Sox.

Andrés Giménez added a two-run single against Jake Diekman, and the Guardians pulled away and beat the Sox 5-2 in front of 25,521.

The Guardians scored four runs in the seventh to take the opener of an important three-game series. The third-place Sox trail the division-leading Guardians by 3½ games in the American League Central.

“Tough game,” Sox right fielder Andrew Vaughn said. “Went up early, got some opportunities we didn’t cash in on, they took some good at-bats, got some runs together, end up beating us.

“Just got to get back out there (Saturday).”

It was a painful loss for the Sox in more ways than one. Vaughn was hit by a pitch in the eighth on a ball that deflected off his left shoulder and hit his face.

Vaughn remained in the game for the top of the eighth before exiting in the bottom of the inning.

“It’s definitely scary getting a ball at your head, but thank God it hit my shoulder first, just caught me and all right,” Vaughn said. “Felt like I was fine. Don’t feel any symptoms or anything, just blood (on the lip).”

Eloy Jiménez left the game after swinging and missing on the first pitch of his eighth-inning at-bat.

“He twisted his (right) knee,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “It looks like right now trainer (James) Kruk is optimistic it’s something that he can deal with. I don’t know if he’ll play (Saturday). (Kruk is) usually right on, so we caught a break there.”

The Sox dropped their third straight, striking out 17 times.

They had Guardians starter Triston McKenzie on the ropes early, but the right-hander rebounded and fanned a career-high 14 while allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings.

“He’s got really good stuff,” Vaughn said. “Last couple times we faced him he’s been right around that 88-, 90-mph mark. That’s what his slider was. He was throwing it well and kept us off balance. He pitched well. Got to hand it to him.”

Both Sox runs came in the first.

AJ Pollock singled on the first pitch of the game and advanced to third on a one-out double by Jiménez. José Abreu hit a slow roller to third and beat the throw to first for an infield single. Pollock scored on the play. Yoán Moncada, coming off a hot series against the Houston Astros, drove in Jiménez with a single.

McKenzie avoided more damage, getting Yasmani Grandal to ground into an inning-ending double play.

McKenzie had three crucial strikeouts in the fifth. Josh Harrison began the inning with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. McKenzie struck out Seby Zavala, Pollock and Vaughn as the Sox squandered an opportunity to expand the lead.

“We had one chance to get it bigger in the first and then we had a chance in the fifth to add on,” La Russa said. “And he was pitching well, so usually it comes back to haunt you and it did.

“He’s got a lot of deception as you can see by a lot of funny swings. You see it whenever he pitches against whoever.”

José Ramírez homered in the sixth, cutting the Sox lead to 2-1. That’s the only run Lance Lynn allowed. The Sox starter allowed one run on five hits with six strikeouts and a walk in 5⅔ innings.

“I would have liked to go six,” Lynn said. “But (the sixth) got away from me a little bit. I made a couple of bad pitches. Obviously one left the ballpark. But you’ve got to get through six there so you give your bullpen a better chance to match up as they go.”

The Guardians got to the Sox bullpen in the seventh, which included an intentional walk to Oscar Gonzalez on a 1-2 pitch. The Sox trailed 5-2 at the time when Josh Naylor stole third and Andrés Giménez second on a 1-1 pitch from the left-handed Diekman. The Sox elected to walk the right-handed Oscar Gonzalez, who came into the game batting .306, loading the bases.

“If he leaves the left-hander in, not going to face Gonzalez, he’s hitting .300,” La Russa said. “They stole the base, there’s an open base. So it’s put him on.”

The move brought to mind a June 9 game at Guaranteed Rate Field when La Russa intentionally walked Los Angeles Dodgers right-handed batter Trea Turner on a 1-2 pitch — after a runner advanced to second on a wild pitch — to set up a lefty-lefty matchup. Max Muncy hit a three-run homer against Bennett Souza, giving the Dodgers a five-run lead in an 11-9 victory.

“The most ridiculous thing in this season has been the (discussion about) 1-2 walk,” La Russa said. “I mean, that’s the most ridiculous.”

On Friday, right-handed Owen Miller hit for the left-handed Nolan Jones, and the Sox brought in right-hander Jimmy Lambert, who got a flyout to right to end the inning.

“So it worked, right? Did we get the guy out? Yeah, so it worked,” La Russa said.

When the seventh wrapped up, the Sox found themselves down three. They didn’t get out of the hole and find themselves facing a larger deficit in the division race.

“You are not going to win every one of them,” Lynn said. “If you beat yourself up over every loss, then it’s going to be a long season. We haven’t done that this far, so we don’t plan on doing it now.”

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