White Sox pitching staff struggles in 11-1 loss to Reds

White Sox pitcher Chris Flexen struggled getting ahead of counts in Friday’s 11-1 loss to the Reds. Photo by NuccioDiNuzzo/Getty Images

Paul Beaty/AP Photos

White Sox pitcher Chris Flexen was one pitch away from escaping the third inning with just one run allowed. Facing one of the best young hitters in baseball in the Reds’ Elly De La Cruz — on an 0-2 count — Flexen threw a changeup down the middle of the zone that De La Cruz connected on for a towering, 449-foot home run.

The Reds’ five-run third inning was the difference in the Sox’ 11-1 loss to the Reds at Guaranteed Rate Field. Friday’s game was another troubling trend for the Sox, as another starter couldn’t go deep into a game.

“Terrible,” Flexen said of his outing. “I put us in a hole early, put the bullpen in a bad situation. Nothing to be happy about today.”

Flexen exited the game after 2 ⅔ innings pitched, seven hits and six runs allowed. The right-hander said he didn’t have his rhythm from the beginning and missed too many pitches over the plate.

Flexen’s third-inning meltdown didn’t give the team a chance to compete as Reds starter Andrew Abbott cruised through seven innings against Sox hitters, allowing four hits and one run.

“We haven’t really had a game like this,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “It was just one of those games where I think Flex got himself in some bad counts. We threw over 200 pitches. Against a team like that, you can’t get behind in the count.”

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The Sox walked the Reds nine times.

“Free passes, pitching behind in the count in this league and you’re asking for trouble,” Grifol said.

Sluggish offense

After one of the worst offensive starts to a season in team history, the Sox showed signs of life in Cleveland, scoring five-plus runs in two of the three games. But despite the minor improvement, the team still ranks near the bottom of the league in many offensive stats.

The Sox are last in the majors in runs scored, 25th in batting average, 26th in OBP, and 25th in slugging percentage. They are also 29th in the majors in RBIs with runners in scoring position (19).

Taking pitches and stringing together at-bats is one way for the team to get out of its collective funk.

“Some of it is just contagious,” center fielder Kevin Pillar told the Sun-Times of getting quality at-bats. “There was a little bit of added pressure on everyone early in the year.”

The veteran outfielder knows firsthand how it feels to struggle at the plate — he started his career going 0-for-17 before his first hit. In the Guardians series, the Sox left 21 runners on base.

“The human emotions kick in, but you have to understand who you are as a player at this level,” Pillar said. “A lot of us have played this game for a while.”

Injury updates

White Sox catcher Max Stassi suffered another injury while recovering from left hip inflammation. Sox general manager Chris Getz said the catcher took a swing off his hand.

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“It’s not significant in regards to a fracture, but it slowed it down a little bit,” Getz said. “We want to get him to the point where he can catch back-to-back games.”

Stassi, who the Sox acquired in the offseason, didn’t play last season because of family reasons.

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