CLEVELAND — Things went from bad to worse for the White Sox on Thursday.
The bad was evident for much of the afternoon, as — for the third straight game — the White Sox looked flat against the Guardians en route to a 6-3 loss. The day became worse in the top of the eighth inning when Luis Robert appeared to tweak something while running out a ground ball. He was lifted for a defensive replacement in the bottom of the frame.
Following the game, manager Tony La Russa said that Robert suffered a “minor groin strain,” and while a stint on the injured list is a possibility, Robert may have avoided a more significant injury.
“It could be worse, because he yanked it,” La Russa said of the injury.
Any type of extended absence for Robert, who went 2-for-4 prior to departing, would be a worst-case scenario for a White Sox team that’s already been hit heavily by the injury bug.
Entering play Thursday, Chicago had seven players on the 10- and 15-day injured list (including key pieces like Lucas Giolito, Yoán Moncada and AJ Pollock), while Josh Harrison and Eloy Jiménez are day to day with injuries of their own. Robert missing time would only add insult to injury.
That said, La Russa added that the team “should” be getting Pollock back ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Twins, while all signs point to Giolito returning on Sunday.
As for the action on the field Thursday, Dylan Cease was tagged for four runs off eight hits and two walks while striking out three over 5 1/3 innings. While that final line might not look incredibly impressive, the fourth-year hurler limited the bleeding after two suboptimal starts by White Sox starters in Wednesday’s doubleheader.
“I thought Dylan pitched well and held them down,” La Russa said. “They had some chances, and he pitched out of it.”
Outside of the two-run moonshot by Franmil Reyes in the third inning, Cease threw the ball well and managed to limit hard contact, as Reyes and Andrés Giménez were the only Guardians to record hits with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph.
Cease also knows that injuries are nothing new for a White Sox club that managed to win the AL Central last season despite missing Jiménez, Robert, Adam Engel and Yasmani Grandal for long stretches.
“We dealt with this a lot last year and it’s just one of those things where we have to keep stepping up,” Cease said. “We’re not going to hold our heads down. … It’s a part of the game. Every team deals with it.”
The White Sox squandered a golden scoring chance for the second straight day in the fourth inning, when Robert was thrown out at home. José Abreu hit a double to right field that Robert never seemed to get a good read on, and by the time Robert — who began the play at second base — realized the ball had dropped in, Leury García was on his heels.
Third-base coach Joe McEwing sent Robert home (in part to avoid Robert and García both being at third base), where he was easily tagged out following a strong Cleveland relay.
“That’s one of the freak things that happens sometimes,” La Russa said. “They had to make a good throw and they did. We had adventures in a negative way at the plate over the last couple days.”
While Grandal was able to drive in García with a sacrifice fly in the ensuing at-bat, it was another missed opportunity in what could have been a fruitful inning.
“We played a lot more like ourselves today, but they just outplayed us the whole series,” La Russa said. “We just couldn’t get enough going. We hit some balls hard; sometimes that’s the way it is.”