The Chicago White Sox had a solid recent history on their side against the Baltimore Orioles, but they never had to face off against Adley Rutschman.
The Orioles rookie catcher had Sox starter Johnny Cueto’s number Thursday night, tagging him for a two-run homer in the fourth and an RBI double two innings later to send the Sox to a 4-0 loss at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Rutschman’s three RBIs were a career high — he had all of four in his first 26 games.
“He had a big night,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “See if we can make some adjustments, keep him quiet.”
Cueto threw 5 ⅓ innings, allowed seven hits — including a two-run homer to Rutschman — and struck out seven.
The Sox had won eight straight against the Orioles dating to May 1, 2019. But they went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base.
“I would say we should win the game when you get nine hits and a lot of hard outs — you should mark something, right?” La Russa said. “So we hit a lot of balls hard and couldn’t break through.
Added catcher Seby Zavala, who had two doubles: “We had three, four balls that were hit pretty good and thought we had a good chance to leave the yard or at least go off the wall. They were just dying out there.”
One bright spot for the Sox was Lenyn Sosa’s major-league debut, which made a lasting impression on the infielder: “Step on the field and see the crowd, the stadium, the fans. I’ve never played in a stadium like this.
“It was pretty amazing.”
The Orioles thought they had grabbed an early lead on Trey Mancini’s would-be RBI double in the third inning, but Cedric Mullins was tagged out sliding into home. The Orioles challenged, believing the left-field relay from A.J. Pollock to Tim Anderson to Zavala came too late, but the call was upheld.
In the fourth, Ryan Mountcastle doubled to center and advanced to third on Leury Garcia’s error. Rutschman made the Sox pay for that mistake with a two-run homer.
Gavin Sheets, playing his first game in the majors since June 9, gave the Sox hope for a response with a double in the bottom of the inning, but right fielder Austin Hays threw him out at home after Leury Garcia’s line-drive single.
Sheets followed Jake Burger’s sixth-inning double with a walk and chased Orioles starter Dean Kremer, but reliever Felix Bautista struck out Zavala.
Sheets worked a 3-0 count in the eighth, but the drama ended with a flyout to the center-field warning track.
“Good at bats. Very good,” La Russa said.
Injuries forced the Sox to shuffle the lineup for the series opener.
Anderson, who turned 29 on Thursday, led off with backup shortstop Danny Mendick out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee. Anderson went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts.
La Russa opted to replace right fielder Adam Engel, who went on the 10-day IL with a strained right hamstring, with Sheets and kept Andrew Vaughn at first base.
Luis Robert was dealing with a leg issue that arose during Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, so La Russa opted to sit him and inserted Leury Garcia in center.
“It’s baseball. It’s part of the game,” Cueto said of all the injuries. “I think you have to be like a horse — just keep moving forward.”
The Sox’s original plan for Sosa was for him to make his debut sometime during the four-game weekend homestand against the Orioles — just not Thursday. But Josh Harrison was shaken up after getting hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fifth, and Sosa replaced him at second in the sixth. Sosa struck out in his first career at-bat, then walked in the ninth on a nine-pitch at bat.
“I thought his first at-bat was all right,” La Russa said. “I thought his second at-bat was one of the highlights of the night. We were competing at that point. He drew a walk, fouled off a couple of tough pitches. I thought that was very impressive.
“He has all the attributes of being a good hitter.”
Harrison suffered a bruised right triceps, and X-rays were negative. He’s day to day.
“He’s got a big ol’ knot in the back of his right throwing arm,” La Russa said. “It was a peculiar way to get hit.”