Sit back, relax, and strap it down, because there is a lot to discuss regarding the month of June.
The White Sox finished the month of June five games under .500 with a record of 12-15. The Sox only won three series this whole month: against Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Toronto. This month of June was also riddled with injuries once again. Luis Robert missed a few games. Adam Engel went on the IL. Yasmani Grandal also went to the IL. The biggest blow was to Danny Mendick, who suffered a torn ACL. Aaron Bummer has not yet returned to the team, while Liam Hendriks also went down with a forearm strain. The injury bug has been brutal, but in spite of the injuries, this team still has the talent to win games, and unfortunately, it has not been shown.
All said, the South Siders finished the month in third place behind Cleveland and Minnesota. With a fifteen-game stretch against the AL Central in July, the season is on the line. We’ll jump into what is going wrong with the White Sox season up to this point, discuss the starting pitching and the offensive struggles, dissect some of the key losses in the past month and questionable managerial decisions, count down the top plays/moments from the month of June, and more.
The starting pitching this month from Cease, Cueto, and Kopech has been solid, but the bats have not been there to support them. Cease has had five starts in the month of June. He went 2-1 in 27.1 innings pitched with forty-five strikeouts. His best start was his last start against Baltimore, where he punched out thirteen, setting a new career high in a win to avoid a sweep. He has been a Cy Young candidate all year for the Sox and a huge boost to this ballclub.
Johnny Cueto has been quite the pickup for the Sox! There is an argument that he is one of the best pitchers on the staff. Cueto has worked into the sixth inning four times out of six of his starts, which is exactly what the White Sox need out of their fifth starter. He has given the team innings when they needed them the most. When Kopech went down with an injury against Texas, Cueto came on and gave the Sox five innings, and boy did they need them. At the time the pen was shot from playing extra innings, and Johnny gave them a boost. Throughout the month of June, Cueto tallied 31 strikeouts in 35.1 innings. He has pitched deep into ballgames and put the Sox in the best position to win.
Michael Kopech’s best start of June has to be the start back on June 7th against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He threw six innings of one-hit baseball with eight strikeouts against a tough Dodgers lineup. He was on no-hitter watch up until the fourth inning when the Dodgers catcher Will Smith broke up the no-hitter bid. Kopech will end the month with a 2.78 earned run average. It is amazing that he is still learning how to be a starter and he is out there blowing it past guys.
For the Sox to even have a chance, the starting staff needs to be at the top of their game night in and night out, and frankly, they have been for the most part. A few bad starts here and there will happen; it is baseball, and things like that will happen. Overall, they have been on their A game and have given the Sox the best chances to win, but the offense has not been there with run support.
Tim Anderson and Andrew Vaughn have been the best hitters in this White Sox lineup. Granted, TA7 did miss some time due to injury, but he has not missed a beat with the bat. Tim owns a .340 average, while Andrew Vaughn holds a .307 average. Both have been rock solid at the top of the card all year for the Sox.
During the month of June, Josh Harrison was one of the top hitters in June, slashing .322/.379/.475. He also added two home runs – one against Toronto, and one against the Angels. He also added a walk-off in the thirteenth inning against Toronto.
Jose Abreu also had a nice month of June. He slashed .346/.431/.533 with four home runs and fifteen RBIs. Abreu has been the only player who has played over seventy games, playing in seventy-two out of a possible seventy-four. The next closest guy to that mark is Luis Robert, who has missed time due to injury and has only played fifty-nine games.
A.J. Pollock, just like Josh Harrison, started to play more of an everyday role, and he got hot in June. He scored fifteen runs, hit two home runs, and drove in thirteen runs to go along with twenty-six hits. He slashed .268/.311/.402 in the month of June.
Luis Robert, despite missing a few games, had an impressive thirteen-game hitting streak that started on June 9th against the Dodgers. It did not end until June 22nd against the Blue Jays. Robert tallied thirty-four hits in June with twenty-one RBIs and five stolen bases.
Andrew Vaughn posted multiple multi-hit games in June – nine in total. He also had two 4-for-4 games this month, one of them on June 14 against Detroit and the other on June 20th against Toronto.
The Offensive Struggle
Despite all of the individual efforts this month, the Sox offense struggled. They were not getting that timely hit that they needed to tie the game or give them the lead. The club struggled with hitting with men on base and hitting with men in scoring position. As a team, the Sox rank twenty-fifth among thirty teams with an average of 7.04 men left on base per game. The Sox rank seventeenth with 3.35 runners left in scoring position per game on the season.
On top of that struggle is that the team is not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, and that was a huge key to the team’s success in 2021. Among thirty teams the Sox rank second with 6.15 singles per game. Hitting singles and getting on base is great, but playing station-to-station will not provide a lot of runs or run support for your pitcher. The Sox rank twenty-fifth in team home runs with only sixty-one. This team needs to hit doubles, triples, and home runs to drive in runs, and it needs to happen fast because while there still is time, time keeps slipping away as every day goes by.
Every loss up to this point is a key loss. The Sox need all the wins that they can possibly get to dig themselves out of the hole that they are in. But some key losses in the month of June were June 9th against the Dodgers, June 11-12th against Texas, June 19th against Houston, and June 23-25th against Baltimore.
The June 9th loss versus the Dodgers was big due to the fact that it was a series decider. Going into the month, the Sox needed to make a statement early and start winning some series. They had a chance against a very good Dodger team but they did not get the job done. In this game, the Sox fell 11-9 and left five men on base, and went 0-for-7 with RISP.
Against Texas, once again a chance for the Sox to win a series, but things went haywire in that roller coaster of a series. Saturday, June 11th, the Sox lost 11-9. Giolito did not have his best stuff as he allowed four runs in five innings of work, but the Sox tied 7-7 in the seventh. Then the game went to the tenth inning, and the Sox allowed four runs in the tenth. It all came apart in the tenth, and the Sox left 11 men on base and went 7-for-11 with RISP. Then on Sunday, Johnny Cueto pulled heroics to relieve the injured Michael Kopech, and the Sox lost 8-6 in twelve innings. Bad base running by Luis Robert cost the Sox in extras, as he was thrown out at third to end the game. Sox left eleven on base and went 4-for-14 with RISP.
Seeing a trend? Hitting with runners in scoring position is important. The Sox get quality innings from their starters and the bullpen guys can only do so much. It is just that the bats are not there when needed the most. Not only did they lose, but they ended up dropping that series to Texas.
In Houston on Sunday Night Baseball, it was more of the same story as the Sox lost 3-2 with a chance to win the series. In that one, they left eight on base and went 0-for-5 with RISP. After coming off a series win against Toronto, Baltimore came to town for four games, and this was a huge chance for the Sox to win a series and go on a nice run. But it was more of the same story, as in those three games, the Sox only managed to score three runs. They were shut out on Thursday, June 23rd, leaving eleven on base and going 1-for-9 with RISP. Then on Friday, they were nearly no-hit on a bullpen day. The Baltimore Orioles went through five pitchers that night, and they held the Sox to one hit. Thankfully Jake Burger had the only hit, which was an RBI double in the second inning. Then on Saturday, the 25th, the Sox lost the series to Baltimore 6-2, leaving eight on base, and going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Absolutely inexcusable.
Questionable Managerial Decisions
Some would say manager Tony La Russa has had some head-scratching decisions in this 2022 season, but none were bigger than the decision he made in a game against the Dodgers. Tony La Russa decided on a 1-2 count to intentionally walk Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner to have Bennett Sousa face lefty Max Muncy. Tony chose to go with the lefty-on-lefty matchup. Max Muncy then went on to hit a three-run home run to put the Dodgers up 10-5. Tony La Russa appeared to be shocked that he was being second-guessed by the media. He said, “Let me ask you something: Is there a question about whether that was a good move or not? Do you know what he hits against left-handed pitchers with two strikes? Is that really a question? Turner with a strike left against a left-hander is something you can avoid if you can. we had an open base and Muncy happened to be the guy behind him, and that’s a better matchup. If someone disagrees, that’s the beauty of this game. Welcome to it. That wasn’t a tough call.”
This made national news and headlined the baseball world. It was a shock that anyone would even consider walking a batter while the hitter is down in the count.
In addition to this move, Tony La Russa has had questionable decisions when leaving starters in for a hitter or two too long. For example, in Kopech’s start against the Angels this Wednesday, Kopech started the sixth with nine pitches. No one was up and warming in the pen, so it seemed to be Kopech’s inning to finish. He got Shohei Ohtani swinging for the first out. He then gave up a bullet of single to Jared Walsh on the first pitch. He was at ninety-seven pitches. Tony left in Kopech to face Luis Rengifo, and he homered to make the game 4-0. Those little things go a long way towards winning or losing a game by one or two runs. In the same series, La Russa allowed Leury Garcia to hit for himself with runners on base at a crucial point of the game in the sixth. Garcia is hitting .193 with a negative WAR on the season at -0.5. With Andrew Vaughn and Jake Burger on the bench, La Russa elected to let Leury Garcia swing with runners on.
What Is The Solution?
To be honest, that answer to that is a giant question mark. Only the twenty-six guys in the clubhouse know what the solution is. First off, let’s throw all of these stats and numbers out the window. The only stat that matters in the second half of the season is W. The Sox need wins, and a lot of them, to dig out of the hole that they have dug themselves into. The Sox need to start off by winning every game possible, and it starts tonight against the Giants.
As mentioned earlier, the Sox play fifteen games in July against the AL Central, and it is make or break time for the club. It will be a test, and the Sox need to win these games in July before the All-Star break in order to stay in contention.
These games are must-win games; it is July, and it is time to get going. The Southsiders will either ride or die – we’ll find out together.
Top Plays/Moments From June
10. Luis Robert Blasts off to the Moon
9. Luis Robert Sends One To Jupiter
8. AJ Pollock With A Gut Punch in the Sixth
7. Michael Kopech Carves Up The Dodgers: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 8 K’s
6. Make It A Double! Burger Saves The Day In Tampa
5. Yo-Yo Goes 5-for-5 In Mo-Town
4. Jose Abreu Continues To Torch The Tigers With 2 HR Day
3. Josh Harrison Sends Us Home Happy
2. Andrew Vaughn Goes 4-for-4: HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R
1. Cease Dazzles With 13 Ks
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Featured Image: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports