Well, apparently my prediction of losing two of three to the Washington Nationals was too optimistic. The Chicago White Sox were swept away by the Nationals, and they are now in the midst of a three-game losing streak. The White Sox pitching was not up to the task of facing one of the best lineups in the National League, as they gave up double-digit hits in all three games. While being swept is never a good thing, I am here to ask White Sox fans to step off the ledge for three reasons. First, it is extremely early in the season to panic over one series. Let’s at least see how the rest of the 10-game road trip goes before making any judgments on where the team may be heading this season. With seven games remaining on the trip, the White Sox can possibly go 5-2 or 4-3 and make this a decent trip. Second, the Nationals are arguably the best team in baseball. Although it is not ideal, there is no shame in losing a series or even being swept by Washington, especially in their home park. Third, the White Sox were playing in a National League park, which meant no designated hitter. While it is not an excuse for being swept, it should be noted that the White Sox are at an extreme disadvantage while playing under National League rules. With not being able to have both Adam Dunn and Dayan Viciedo in the same lineup, the Sox were missing a lot of power from their batting order.

Tuesday, April 9th – Nationals 8 White Sox 7

The White Sox offense did their best to rally from being down 6-2 after 6 innings, but it was not enough. The Sox managed to have eleven hits, with the top three hitters accounting for eight of the eleven base knocks. Alejandro De Aza was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. Jeff Keppinger broke out of his early season slump by recording two hits in five at-bats, also crossing the plate twice. Alex Rios continued his torrid start to the season by hitting a two-run shot in the ninth inning, and finished with three hits in five at-bats. Rios now has four home runs and also picked up his 3rd stolen base of the season. With his hot start, Rios is silencing anyone’s doubts about him being able to repeat his performance from last season. With the top three hitters reaching base so frequently, Paul Konerko was able to drive in four runs on the night. His evening was highlighted by a 3-run bomb in the seventh inning that brought the Sox within one run at 6-5.

Jake Peavy took the mound and threw a lot of pitches on the night. Peavy was pitching effectively through five innings, but ran into a wall in the sixth by giving up a pair of homers to Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Peavy’s final line was 5.1 innings, nine hits, six runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts. He gave up three home runs and threw 100 pitches. Peavy has to start limiting the high pitch counts if he wants to go deeper in games. Although he was able to strike out seven batters, it seemed as though Peavy didn’t have his best swing-and-miss stuff with so many foul balls. Hopefully, Peavy can put away hitters at a more efficient rate in his next start.

Wednesday, April 10th – Nationals 5 White Sox 2

The White Sox were able to get nine hits, but were only able to scratch out two runs during their second loss to the Nationals. Alex Rios and Conor Gillaspie both recorded a pair of hits in four at-bats, with Rios adding an RBI. With Beckham’s injury, Gillaspie will have plenty of opportunities to prove he is capable of playing every. Based on his performance during the spring and early this season, Gillaspie should prove to be an adequate replacement for Beckham. I wouldn’t expect all-star caliber or even above-average numbers for Gillaspie, but he shouldn’t be a glaring hole in the lineup either.

Gavin Floyd got his second start of the season and struggled after pitching three scoreless innings to start the game. Floyd ended up pitching 5.1 innings while giving up nine hits, five runs, and three walks. He struck out seven and allowed one home run. Floyd’s performance was pretty similar to Jake Peavy’s from the night before, and again left the bullpen almost three innings of work. Fortunately, relievers Nate Jones and Hector Santiago were able to combine to pitch 2.2 innings, allowing one hit and striking out four batters.

Thursday, April 11th – Nationals 7 White Sox 4

The White Sox cranked out thirteen hits, but once again failed to score enough runs. Alejandro De Aza, Jeff Keppinger, Alex Rios, Paul Konerko, and Conor Gillaspie all had two hits on the night. Unfortunately, this game was yet another example of the White Sox struggling to hit with runners in scoring position. The White Sox went a putrid 4-for-29 with RISP during this series, adding to their dismal 9-for-58 this season. After the Seattle series, I mentioned how hitting home runs is never a bad thing when talking about the White Sox scoring most of their runs on homers. While this is still true, if the Sox continue to hit .155 with RISP throughout the rest of the season, then they will be in a lot of trouble. The good news is that it can’t really get any worse and the Sox average with RISP will improve. The question is, by how much? Hopefully the Sox will be able to find more balance to their offense as the season progresses.

Dylan Axelrod looked lost while making his second start filling in for the rehabbing John Danks. Axelrod threw a ton of pitches, worked very slowly, and could never get in a rhythm. He threw 40 pitches in the first inning and could never get back on-track after that. Axelrod went 3.2 innings while giving up seven hits, six runs, and four walks. He struck out two batters. Following the short appearances from Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd in games 1 and 2, the bullpen had to shoulder the load once again. Relievers Hector Santiago, Matt Lindstrom, and Jesse Crain combined to pitch 4.2 innings to finish out the game. The starting pitchers are going to have to start pitching deeper in games if the Sox want to compete for a playoff spot this season. Granted it has only been nine games, but the bullpen is already over-worked heading into the final seven games of a ten-game road trip. Given their high workload this series, it made sense that the White Sox called up another reliever to fill Beckham’s roster spot.

Record: 4-5, 3rd place in AL Central (2 games back)

Up Next: A three games series at the Cleveland Indians (3-5) begins Friday night.

Friday, April 12th at 6:05pm CT: Jose Quintana (0-0, 11.25 ERA) vs. Justin Masterson (2-0, 0.69 ERA)

Saturday, April 13th at 3:05pm CT: Chris Sale (1-0, 1.84 ERA) vs. Zach McAllister (0-1, 3.00 ERA)

Sunday, April 14th at 12:05pm CT: Jake Peavy (1-1, 5.56 ERA) vs. Brett Myers (0-1, 12.19 ERA)

Prediction: After being swept by the Washington Nationals, the White Sox will be trying to get back on track versus a divisional rival. Game 1 features the Indians’ ace against the White Sox’ fifth starter, and on paper is a clear advantage for the Tribe. In games 2 and 3, the White Sox should have the upper-hand with Sale and Peavy scheduled to pitch against McAllister and Myers respectively. If Quintana can pitch well enough to keep the Sox in the game on Friday, then the Sox might be aiming for a sweep with how the pitching lines up the rest of the weekend. Regardless, this should be a series win for the South Siders. White Sox win two of three.

More Notes:

-Gordon Beckham was officially place on the 15-day DL on Friday. He is expected to undergo surgery on Tuesday to remove the hamate bone in his left wrist.

-Right-handed reliever Deunte Heath was recalled from AAA Charlotte to take Beckham’s spot on the roster. On Thursday, general manager Rick Hahn hinted that the White Sox might not bring up another infielder to replace Beckham. With the bullpen being overworked versus the Nationals, the White Sox brass felt it was necessary to bring up another reliever for the remaining of the road trip. I would expect the Sox to recall an infielder when they return home to fill the utility role until Beckham is ready to return.

-Pitching coach Don Cooper has been absent from the dugout for the past few days after being hospitalized with diverticulitis. Cooper will not rejoin the Sox staff until after the road trip. Bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen will handle the duties while Cooper is away. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge deal, but Cooper is regarded as one baseball’s best pitching coaches and his insight and advice will be hard to replace.

-Eric Tichelbaut

Follow me on Twitter @etichel07